Understanding the Difference Between Professional and Family Care

Caregiver 2

According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 46 million American seniors aged 65 and older in 2014. The number of seniors in America could reach almost 100 million by 2060. ¹ Based on the projected growth of this demographic, the demand for senior caregiving may skyrocket over the next few decades as well. With this in mind, it is a good idea to think ahead about what care you may require in the future and set up a care plan that will fulfill your needs.

Caregivers play an integral role in seniors’ health and safety. There are different types of caregiving structures. Some seniors might have a mix of family and professional caregivers, while others might rely on just one of the two.

Professional caregivers provide both medical and non-medical support. Family caregivers can learn some in-home medical support, but typically only help with daily personal tasks. Your care should reflect your needs and prioritize your safety. A good aging-in-place care plan designates caregivers and includes helpful tools, such as a medical alert system, to make you feel more secure. 

What are Typical Caregiver Duties?

Caregivers increase seniors’ quality of life by providing essential support for daily tasks. Professional caregivers often have extra certification and experience, so they usually handle more technical or medicinal duties. However, both family members and professional caregivers can cover some overlapping everyday tasks. 

Typical day-to-day caregiver duties include:

  • Mobility Assistance - A caregiver might help you get in and out of bed or a wheelchair if you have difficulty moving from place to place within your home. This support can help prevent falling, and a medical alert system is another great tool to have if a fall does occur. 
  • Meal Preparation - Some caregivers assist with meal preparation. You might also consider working with a professional chef or dietician if you have special dietary or health considerations. 
  • Housekeeping - Keeping rooms tidy and clean is an important aspect of your aging-in-place safety plan. Clutter is a tripping hazard. A caregiver can help keep you safe by keeping your space clean. 
  • Daily Living/Medication Assistance - These miscellaneous duties could include bathing, getting dressed, or administering medications at the right times throughout the day. 
  • Transportation - A caregiver might provide transportation to doctors’ appointments or other social engagements. If the caregiver cannot or will not provide driving services, they will often arrange transportation so that you can get where you need to go. 
  • Communication - Your care plan will involve other loved ones or professionals. A caregiver can make sure those people are up to date on your wellbeing by taking regular health assessments and passing along the findings.
  • Care Planning - Creating a care plan can be stressful. Your caregiver can help you structure and plan for your senior care. A care plan might include what kind of care you need, how much of that care you need, and if that care should involve medical support.
No senior is quite the same, and caregiving duties reflect the unique needs of the senior. Although the duties above are standard caregiving responsibilities, your scope of care will depend on your abilities and wellbeing.  

What is a Family Caregiver?

Most people imagine caregivers as professionals who are paid to provide in-home care for seniors. This understanding of caregiving often fails to include an important part of senior care: family caregivers. A family caregiver is a family member or loved one who provides at-home care. This type of care is typically unpaid. 

AARP reports that in 2015 more than 34 million Americans were unpaid caregivers to loved ones above the age of 50.² The polled caregivers had been in their care roles for approximately four years, averaging about 24 hours of care per week. 

The duties of professional and family caregivers often overlap, but typically only professional caregivers are paid. A family caregiver might be more involved in the senior’s financial management, scheduling, communication, and care plan. Family caregivers might also take on very minor medical care tasks, like taking care of catheters, providing injections, or administering tube feedings. 

Family Caregivers Adapt to Accommodate Seniors’ Health and Safety

The pandemic has put pressure on the caregiving situation in America. Nursing homes and out-of-home professional caregivers threatened exposure to COVID-19, and some families chose to be family caregivers instead of exposing their loved one into a potentially dangerous living situation³.

In the wake of the pandemic, there have been changes in the American care landscape. There are more family care workers now than there were in 2019. With supplemental government help (legislation in the works), more family members are thinking about becoming family caregivers.

Some family caregivers live with the loved one they care for, but sometimes the senior lives independently and the caregiver is not always present. In this case, the caregiver is responsible for care coordination as well as the creation of emergency plans. Emergency planning is an especially relevant task in the face of a global pandemic, and the potential dangers, like falling, that seniors face every day. A medical alert system is a wonderful addition to any emergency plan. When a caregiver cannot be present, a medical alert system can provide a lifeline in case of a fall.  

What is At-Home Professional Care?

Professional caregivers provide at-home care. They are paid for their work. Most common professional caregivers fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) - Usually work under the supervision of a registered nurse. CNAs help with everyday tasks and medical support.
  • Personal Care Aides - Typically help with personal tasks, as well as housekeeping, and scheduling management.
  • Home Care Aides - Help people who are confined to their homes or living in residential care facilities with daily personal tasks and medical support. 

Professional at-home care can also include registered nurses, as well as licensed practical and vocational nurses. A professional caregiver might work for a nursing home, living facility, home health care agency, or retirement community. 

The main difference between professional and family caregivers is the capacity to provide medical support. A professional caregiver can provide several medical care services:

  • IV preparation and monitoring
  • Blood draws
  • Catheter insertion
  • Dressing changes
  • Vitals 
  • Treatment for acute or chronic conditions
  • Providing injections
  • Palliative or hospice care
Seniors’ needs vary from person to person, so there is a wide range of professional senior caregiving duties. Families or loved ones might hire professional caregivers when other loved ones are not able to step into a caregiving role, and the family has the financial capacity to do so.  

Can You Age-In-Place Without Care Assistance?

It is possible to age-in-place without care assistance depending on the state of your health. Many seniors can age-in-place alone because they are physically able and financially stable. Seniors with any type of dementia might find it difficult or dangerous to age-in-place without care assistance.

Meeting with loved ones or health care professionals, or a mix of both, can help determine whether you are fit to live on your own. Many seniors prefer the option of aging-in-place, but that often requires assistance.

Aging-in-place requires planning, whether you have care assistance or not. The best way to prioritize your at-home safety is hiring a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). These trained professionals can help you make your space accessible, safe, and comfortable. CAPS can also help you determine if a medical alert system could complement your care plan and increase your sense of safety.

How Can a Medical Alert System Supplement Your Lifestyle?


Your aging-in-place care plan might include professional or family care, or a mix of both. Caregivers are committed to the safety of the person they care for, and an Alert1 medical alert system can aide in that commitment. Seniors who age-in-place do not always have 24/7 care. If you are alone, you should still have access to help. Alert1’s 24/7 Command Centers are ready to assist if you fall.

This plan is meant to provide the utmost comfort and safety for you and your loved ones. A medical alert system is a smart addition to any aging-in-place plan, but we know that plans change. The best part about Alert1’s medical alert systems and payment plans is the flexibility. We will not lock you into long-term contracts. You can pay for your medical alert system on a month-by-month basis. 

Which Medical Alert System is Right for You?


Depending on your level of mobility, you can choose from an In-Home or On-The-Go medical alert system. The In-Home + On-The-Go + Fall Detection medical alert system fits any of your aging-in-place needs. As you make your own plan, you might consider choosing one of our medical alert systems with fall detection technology

Fall detection technology is especially helpful if you do not have a full-time caregiver, or you forget to press the button after a fall. Our medical alert systems with fall detection sense when you fall and automatically place a call to the 24/7 Command Center. A certified operator will stay on the line with you until help arrives. 

Safety and Care as You Age-In-Place

Figuring out what kind of caregiver will work best for you is an important part of your aging-in-place plan. If you have the need, and the funds, a professional caregiver can be a wonderful addition to your plan. Some families can have a primary family caregiver or split the role between different family members or loved ones. Your safety is important whether you have a professional caregiver, family caregiver, or both. 

Alert1 offers a contribution to your safety and care with accessible medical alert systems. These are complementary tools to your aging-in-place care plan. While your caregiver focuses on at-home fall prevention methods, we provide a medical alert system that you can use in case a fall should occur. Your caregiver, care plan, and medical alert system can work together to help keep you safe.  



¹ Administration on Aging (AoA), Administration for Community Living. 2015. A Profile of Older Americans: 2015. acl.gov. A Profile of Older Americans: 2015.

² NAC and AARP Public Policy Institute. 2015. Caregiving in the U.S.: 2015. www.aarp.org. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.

³ Span, Paula. 2021, May. 21. Family Caregivers Feel the Pandemic’s Weight. The New York Times. Family Caregivers Feel the Pandemic’s Weight.

Binette, Joanne, Vasold, Kerri. Aug. 2019. 2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Ages 18-Plus. AARP.org. 2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Ages 18-Plus.