Caretaking vs Caregiving: What you need to know

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Taking care of our parents, grandparents, and older adults is an act of love. Still, it can be sometimes difficult to understand how to best help our loved ones, especially if we don't know what being a caretaker or a caregiver really means.

In fact, there are significant differences between caretaking vs caregiving1

Caretaking refers to the responsibilities involved in looking after the safety, health, comfort, and well-being of another person. While caretaking is typically a paid profession, caregiving is often unpaid and refers to caring for others from a place of love and lifelong commitment. 

The differences don’t stop there; keep on reading to learn more about caretaking and caregiving, and how to best approach your responsibilities when caring for someone in need. 

Caretaking vs Caregiving: What’s the difference? 

Even though caregiving and caretaking share the same goal –– taking care of older adults and those with a disability or illness – it’s crucial to understand the difference between these two terms. 

First, it’s important to address that caretaking is a paid job, unlike caregiving2. Caretakers usually provide care as long as the situation calls for it, and are not actively seeking other job opportunities during their involvement. In most cases, they have also taken courses on caretaking responsibilities.

 Meanwhile, a caregiver is often a relative or a friend. Unlike caretakers, many caregivers have not studied how to care for others and, as a result, they tend to be exceedingly protective over their loved ones, sometimes crossing personal boundaries and experiencing symptoms of caregiver burnout

Being a caregiver also means accepting the reality of wanting to help others while also learning to honor the recipient’s individuality. As such, caregiving is an action motivated by love, respect, and a sense of concern that stems from trust and acceptance.

Why is the difference between caretaking vs caregiving important?

Knowing the difference between caretaking and caregiving allows the person providing care to establish healthy strategies and boundaries with their care recipient. This foundation is crucial to avoid future misunderstandings, communication issues, and possible scenarios where one’s mental health is compromised due to overwhelming stress, anxiety, and depression.

When things get hard, it’s important to remind ourselves that prioritizing privacy and self-care by stepping back, getting some mental rest and creating some distance for yourself and your care recipient is not selfish.

How to be a good caregiver

Caregiving means giving love and attention with pure intentions. Good caregivers know that caring for and protecting others is more than just being there and trying to fix their problems. Caregivers, first and foremost, know how to balance their loved one’s autonomy with their efforts to provide optimal care. 

A good caregiver respects the limits that the person in need puts forward and knows when to stop or continue offering help for their greater good. Caregivers also can empathize and understand their “patients” as a result of the desire of helping the person who requires aid. 

You will know you're a good caregiver if you:

  • Have patience: Being patient implies recognizing that plans may change, issues could arise, things may not go as expected, and that the person receiving care may sometimes show hesitancy or resistance.
  • Are trustworthy: A good caregiver knows how to create bridges with others by showing how trustworthy he or she is.
  • Respect boundaries: A good caregiver won’t suffocate others when attempting to take care of them. They respect the person they are helping and, if possible, can step back as requested by their recipient.

How to become a better caregiver

If you think you need to improve the way you deal with helping others, don’t worry: The first step is accepting that you need to improve, so you are actually on the right track!

Becoming a better caregiver is a never-ending journey, as there are always new ways to evolve your communication skills, stress management methods, and how to best approach your relationship with your care recipient.

Here are some tips to take your caregiving to the next level:

  • Learn to listen to the person you are taking care of.
  • Be open to talking about what makes you uncomfortable.
  • Don’t assume anything; it’s always better to ask for clarification. Learn to relax and clear your mind before stress takes a toll on you.
  • Aim to make the person that you’re caring for feel more autonomous and independent; if they can do something by themselves, let them do it!

Final thoughts

Learning the difference between caretaking vs caregiving allows you to have a more objective and grounded perspective when it comes to caring for someone in need. 

Caretaking and caregiving are not easy tasks, and sometimes, you may need some tools and support along the way. Hero’s medication management service is here to make your job easier when taking care of others. 

Whether you’re a caregiver and/or caretaker, Hero’s award-winning smart dispenser can automatically store, sort and dispense up to ten of your care recipient’s meds. We’ll remind you when it’s time for a dose, and track their adherence with our connected app. Hero can even automatically refill their prescriptions and send them directly to their door! 

 Learn how Hero can uplevel your caregiving or caretaking efforts here.


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The contents of the above article are for informational and educational purposes only. The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified clinician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or its treatment and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of information published by us.