What Is Caregiving? Caregiver Information and Resources

In this article...
  • A caregiver is often an unpaid family member who helps a loved one with daily activities, household tasks and transportation. Learn more about how to find a caregiver or how to become one yourself, and explore some helpful resources for caregivers and their loved ones.
Family caregiver serves lunch to her father

More than 65 million Americans serve as a caregiver for a family member or a loved one, a total that makes up 29 percent of the adult U.S. population. 

Caregiving is a role that can present itself unexpectedly, and many newly-minted caregivers are left scrambling for information in order to prepare for the task at hand. Below are some answers to some common caregiving questions along with some information and resources that may be helpful for caregivers and their loved ones.

What Are Caregiver Duties?

A caregiver is typically a friend or family member who helps someone who is aged, ill or disabled with activities of daily living.

Caregivers are most often unpaid, and some caregiving responsibilities may include:

  • Assisting with bathing, grooming and dressing
  • Assisting with eating
  • Providing transportation to doctor appointments and other errands
  • Managing and administering medications and diets
  • Going grocery shopping and preparing meals
  • Helping with light exercise or other activities 
  • Assisting with movement around the home
  • Providing emotional support and companionship
  • Helping with cleaning and other household tasks
  • Assisting with paying bills and managing finances

When caring for a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, caregiver responsibilities may also include serving as a liaison between the individual and their doctor, family and friends.  

What Are 5 Types of Caregivers?

Every person requiring care has different needs, and each caregiver relationship will bring its own dynamic. Thus, there are several different types of caregivers. 

Family caregivers

Family caregivers are the most common types of caregiver and are usually an adult child, grandchild, spouse or other family member. 

Professional caregivers

Professional caregivers work on behalf of a caregiving agency and are hired by the care recipient or their family to provide care in exchange for a fee. 

Independent caregivers

Independent caregivers are also professionals and are hired to provide care for a fee. However, independent caregivers are not associated with an agency. 

Informal caregivers

An informal caregiver is typically not related to the person receiving the care. Informal caregivers are often friends or neighbors that provide some basic assistance at a level of care that is often below that of family caregivers. 

Volunteer caregivers

Volunteer caregivers generally work in respite or hospice care and provide relief for the full-time caregiver. 

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Caregiver?

Family caregivers typically do not have any specialized training. But hospice nurses and aides, social workers, doctors and therapists can all be good resources for information about the skills and techniques used to provide safe and effective care.  

Professional caregivers who work independently or for an agency must often be trained as a certified nursing assistant and may have to complete additional training requirements such as CPR certification. Professional caregivers are often required to be in good health and drug free with a clean criminal background and reliable transportation. 

Each state or agency may have its own set of training requirements for professional caregivers.  

Does Insurance Cover Caregivers?

While many people receive caregiving for free from a dedicated family member or friend, there remains some who do not have that option and must pay for the services of a professional caregiver. 

Some health insurance plans may offer some coverage of professional caregiving services. Most plans that do offer such benefits only provide coverage of medical services but not “custodial care” such as bathing, dressing or eating. And rarely is caregiving ever covered at 100%.

  • Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) typically does not pay for in-home caregivers for custodial care when it’s the only care that is required. Medicare may pay for short-term caregiving however when medical care is needed to recover from an injury, illness or surgery. Other types of home-based care such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and skilled nursing care may be covered by Medicare and other types of health insurance. 

  • Some Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans provide more caregiving benefits than Original Medicare and may also cover the cost of home modifications such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars. These are often overlooked expenses faced by individuals needing at-home care. 

  • Medicaid provides some level of coverage for care administered outside of a nursing home in all 50 states. Specific coverage details, and whether or not those benefits extend to the home, will vary from one state to the next.

  • VA (Veterans Administration) benefits may be used to provide a certain level of coverage for at-home care.  

Long-term care insurance is a special type of insurance that covers the cost of home health care along with nursing home and assisted living care. 

Many seniors use various riders and withdrawal options in their life insurance policies to help pay for professional caregiving. 

Other ways to pay for professional caregiving include personal savings accounts or reverse mortgages.

How Do I Find a Caregiver?

If no family members or close friends are able to dedicate themselves to being a caregiver, you may have to turn to professional caregiving. 

Caregiving agencies can provide qualified and experienced caregivers for you or your loved one. There are also home health registries or staffing services that can connect you with independent home health workers. 

The Medicare provider lookup tool allows you to search for home health care providers in your area. 

The eldercare locator provided by the Administration for Community Living is another way of connecting with caregivers and related services in your area. 

One way of finding a caregiver is by asking for referrals from members of your community and from local doctors, social workers and skilled nursing facilities.

Additional Caregiving Resources

There are several additional resources that may be valuable to caregivers and to those who are receiving care. 

  • Caregiver Action Network
    This is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support and resources to family caregivers.

  • National Council on Independent Living
    The NCIL advocates to promote social change, eliminate disability-based discrimination and create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the legislative process to affect change.

  • Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists
    This organization provides resources and information pertaining to vehicle modifications for aged and disabled persons.

  • National Council on Aging
    The NCOA partners with non-profit organizations, governments and businesses to provide community programs and services, online help and advocacy for people meeting the challenges of aging.

  • National Institute on Aging
    The NIA provides research and information on aging.

  • Homemods
    Housemods provides courses, resources, directories and information about home modifications often used for those receiving at-home care.

  • U.S. National Library of Medicine
    Here you can find health and medical information and resources for caregivers.

  • Medicare.gov
    Find information about Medicare costs and coverage that can be useful to a caregiver providing care for someone on Medicare.  

  • Alzheimers.gov
    You can use this site to find information, research and support services for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.