Today’s caregiver manages not just a loved one’s daily needs, but simultaneously keeps their own family, health, career, and social life afloat. As time goes on, it can be difficult to maintain the balance of these constant demands, especially when the caregiver themselves is at risk of burning out (more on that shortly).

A caregiver is someone who provides care, supervision, or support to a person who needs help because of certain limitations, disabilities, or chronic illnesses. Professional caregivers can work in different care environments, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, adult day care centers, and private homes.

Variety of Caregivers In Long-Term Care

There are several types of caregivers and while they differ in some ways, they all share the same responsibility – tending to the needs of the person they are caring for.
Some of the most common types of caregivers are:

Family Caregiver

Often working without monetary compensation, a family caregiver is someone who provides help to a relative or loved one. They are usually an immediate relative like a spouse, siblings, or children, and generally do not have professional caregiving training.

Professional Caregiver

This type of caregiver is a hired professional who has received formal caregiving education or certification and can provide medical or non-medical services to the recipient. They are employed by a home care agency, health care company, or other senior care housing options.

Independent Caregiver

Unlike agency-employed caregivers, these are independent contractors who are not tied to one company. They are hired directly by the family or responsible party of the care recipient.

Private-Duty Caregiver

private-duty caregiver is typically hired through an agency and most often provides care for people who require medical help and constant care.

What Does a Caregiver Do?

Caregivers’ duties vary greatly and will depend on the specific needs of the person they are caring for. Some individuals may require medical assistance, while others may need help with routine daily tasks. Ultimately, a caregiver’s role is to make their care recipient’s life easier, providing assistance where they need it.
Some examples of caregiving duties include:

  • Light household chores
  • Running errands
  • Preparing meals
  • Providing companionship
  • Driving or transportation services
  • Medication management
  • Assisting with personal care and grooming
  • Companion and emotional support
  • General health care
  • Health monitoring

What’s the Difference Between Paid and Unpaid Caregivers?

Paid caregivers receive compensation for their service and are usually hired through an agency or may be independent professionals. Those who don’t receive compensation for their work are family or volunteer caregivers who offer their services and skills for free.
If you are tasked with providing any type of support for a loved one, you are a caregiver. Whether your role is driver, cook, housecleaner, appointment setter, or medication manager, you can count yourself among the nearly 1 in 5 unpaid family caregivers in the U.S.

How Do I Become a Paid Caregiver?

Professional caregivers are paid by their employers for the service they provide. If you are a family caregiver, there are also steps you can take to become a paid caregiver. State programs like Medicaid can provide extended benefits in order for family caregivers to receive compensation for their service.
To become a paid caregiver, your loved one must be eligible for coverage. Medicaid, for example, is a state-managed program, and eligibility requirements will vary.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

The daily responsibilities of a caregiver can be especially draining and can result in caregiver burnout. Even highly trained professional caregivers with extensive experience in the field can still experience fatigue and burnout.
Caregiver burnout happens when the person has become overwhelmed and is feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.
Some symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling anxious and depressed
  • Feeling increasingly resentful

How Can I Prevent Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout can be potentially harmful, if not treated promptly. Someone who is mentally and/or physically exhausted will not be able to fulfill their caregiving role, which increases the risk of harm to the person receiving help. Until the caregiver has received proper treatment, they should not be providing care to another person.
Below are some helpful tips to prevent caregiver burnout:

  • Know your limitations and turn down tasks if you are not able to do them.
  • Don’t neglect your own needs.
  • Listen to your body and know when to rest.
  • Talk to others in your field who understand your situation.
  • Have a support system you can turn to when you are feeling down.
  • Make an effort to stay healthy – eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need to.
  • Get counseling or therapy when necessary.
  • Seek out caregiver support groups near you.

How Much Do Caregivers Make?

According to Salary, the average compensation a private-duty caregiver makes in the US in 2022 is $43,273 annually. The salary of a caregiver will depend on many factors including their education, certifications, and experience. The pay range falls between $39,392 – $47,567.

Are caregiver expenses tax deductible?

Caregivers are entitled to some tax deductions. The IRS allows certain deductions to cover the cost of some medical expenses and prescription medications. More information can be found in IRS Publication 502.
Examples of caregiver tax-deductible expenses for yourself or a qualifying relative:

  • Ambulance services
  • Physical examinations
  • Dental treatments
  • Eye exams
  • Hearing aids
  • Home care
  • Nursing Services
  • And more

Who Pays for Caregivers?

This will depend on the type of caregiver and how they are employed. Those who are employed by home care agencies and senior care facilities receive a fixed salary from their employers. Independent or private caregivers are paid directly by the family or responsible party of the person they are caring for. In some cases, state programs and non-profit organizations pay for the caregiver’s service, if they are eligible for benefits.

Does Medicare Pay for Caregivers?

Medicare sometimes pays for caregivers, but it depends on the services being provided. Medicare covers short home health visits for people recovering from an accident or returning home from a hospital stay. Caregivers may be part of the overall care plan to assist with limited activities like bathing assistance. Medicare does not cover long-term caregivers in the home to help with custodial care.

Does Medicaid Pay for Caregivers?

Each state in the US manages its own Medicaid program. That means it depends on where you are located and what the particular Medicaid benefits are in your state. Some states will offer assistance paying for in-home caregivers, while others have their own caregiver registries where you can find approved and state-funded caregivers.

To find out exactly what is offered in your state for Medicaid caregiver coverage, contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

Does Insurance Pay for Caregivers?

Most private insurance companies do not pay for in-home care or non-medical home care services. However, there are some policies that cover some of the costs but with limitations. The best way to find out what your benefits are is to call your insurance company.

Does the Veterans Administration Pay for Caregivers?

The U.S Department of Veteran Affairs created a unique Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. Also known as PCAFC, caregivers can receive a monthly stipend and other benefits. There are eligibility requirements such as relationship to the Veteran, VA disability rating, active duty service dates, and types of care needed.

How Much Should I Pay a Private Caregiver?

The average rate of an independent caregiver is between $10 – $20 per hour. There are several elements that can affect the rate, including the area where you live, the caregiver’s experience, and the duties involved in their role. For example, caregiving for someone with dementia would be more demanding and may come at a higher rate.
Some states with higher costs of living will require higher pay. In areas that have a shortage of caregivers (which seems to be about everywhere these days), demand will be higher, so expect to pay more.

How Do I Show Appreciation for Caregivers?

Showing appreciation to a caregiver can help ease their stress and frustration. Like any other employee, caregivers also need to feel that they are valued in their workplace. Gifts don’t need to be extravagant, a simple act of kindness can go a long way.
Here are some simple things you can do to thank a caregiver:

  • Lend a helping hand.
  • Write a thoughtful “Thank You” letter.
  • Take them out to lunch or dinner.
  • Invite them to a family gathering.
  • Prepare a homecooked meal for them.
  • Give them a day off.

How Do I Know When a Caregiver Can No Longer Meet the Needs of My Loved One?

There are some cases where a caregiver may have reached their limit and can no longer fulfill their duties. It can be a challenge to recognize it but there will be subtle signs to watch out for.
Here are some signs that could mean a caregiver is no longer right for the role:

  • Feeling irritable when they are on duty.
  • Neglecting the needs of their patient.
  • Constant tardiness.
  • Disrespecting boundaries.
  • Your loved one (or care recipient) expresses signs of distress around the caregiver.
  • Verbal cues pointing to an unhealthy relationship between the patient and caregiver.

Caregiving should be a dynamic relationship, with respect and trust on both sides. If this is no longer the case, it is best to move on and seek out a new caregiver.

Keep Up the Great Work Caregiver!

As a caregiver, you’re providing valuable, one-on-one care and emotional support to someone who is unable to do so for themselves. As you give more time and energy to your loved one, you may experience more stress, and before long you can see your own stress levels start to rise. Burnout is a real concern for people who care for others, make sure to follow these tips to keep caregivers in your life healthy.

  • Caregivers need a day off too, provide respite to both family and private caregivers.
  • Check in with the caregivers in your circle- are they eating well and getting enough sleep?
  • Be familiar with the signs of burnout- irritability and distress are both signs that something is wrong.

Caregiving Frequently Asked Questions:

What does a caregiver do?

A caregiver’s duties vary, depending on the specific needs of their patient. Their main role is to provide aid (medical or non-medical) to the care recipient.

What is the definition of a caregiver?

By definition, a caregiver is anyone who provides aid or support to a person who needs them. They are usually hired to take care of the elderly, children, or patients with chronic illnesses.

How do caregivers get paid?

Caregivers are paid by either their agency or directly by their employer. Family caregivers can also receive compensation by applying to state programs.

How do I become a licensed caregiver?

To be a licensed caregiver, you need to attend a certified caregiver training program and complete the course. You will also need to take and pass the examination to receive your certification.

An expert in senior care, Amie has professional and personal experience in senior housing, caregiving, end-of-life care, and more from her 24 years of working with older adults.