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January 12, 2021
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Caregiver Resources

What is a Primary Caregiver? Responsibilities of Primary Caregivers

A primary caregiver is a person who provides care on a regular basis for the ill, injured, or elderly. They do so with or without assistance from another person.

Primary caregivers are not restricted to any one demographic, but some common categories include family members, friends, neighbors, aides, or aides from a home health agency that provides care for disabled relatives on a regular basis.

Not only do the elderly often have primary caregivers, but children too face risks when they are unable to care for themselves alone. As per family law, a primary caretaker is at least 18 years of age.

Primary Caregiver Meaning: A primary caregiver is a person who takes care of another on a regular basis. Primary caregivers are often family members or friends of the sick, injured, or elderly that provide their services free of charge. A primary caregiver may also be called simply a caregiver.

The roles of primary caregivers are not limited to personal assistance but often extend to medical or nursing tasks. They assist with activities of daily living (ADL), which may include dressing, bathing, toileting, walking, and transferring from one place to another. Other duties may involve household management, food, grocery shopping, preparing meals, and providing transportation.

The importance of primary caregivers cannot be understated. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 60 million people in the United States that provide care or assistance to an elderly family member or friend on a regular basis.

Responsibilities of Primary Caregiver

The primary caregiver isn’t limited to just one task but may perform a wide range of duties depending on their relationship with the person they care for. Primary caretakers develop emotional bonds and improve the mental health of adult children. Primarily, they are caretaker for patient at home.

The responsibilities of a primary caregiver vary depending on the needs and abilities of the individual being cared for. Most caregivers perform life sustaining activities, or tasks that are necessary to ensure the health and well being of the individual under their care. Although most primary caregivers are family members or friends, paid care providers may also play this role.

Life Sustaining Activities

Primary caregiver responsibilities may include assisting with activities of daily living, or ADL for short. ADLs are basic self care tasks that people must be able to perform independently without assistance in order to live a normal lifestyle. This means daily tasks such as bathing, grooming, walking, and eating. If this is not done it can result in isolation of the patient.

Primary Caregivers may help the ill or elderly person to transfer from one place to another. For example, getting out of bed and being transferred to a wheelchair. This is often used in hospital care when the patient has had an operation or illness that causes them to be immobile for a period of time.

In many cases, a primary caregiver may help with toileting. This includes helping get the patient up and onto the toilet, wiping afterward, and then getting them back into position. A caregiver may help the ill or elderly person to dress, for example putting on their underwear. They can also undress them if required, for instance when they are ready to go to bed.

Life Sustaining Activities are just one part of being a primary caregiver. There are many more roles caregivers play in sustaining the life of someone they care about.

Most commonly, primary caregivers assist with dressing, bathing, walking, and eating. If this assistance is not provided, the patient may become isolated from their community and friends. In extreme cases, this can result in depression or anxiety for the patient.

Meal Preparation

Primary caregiver ensure that the patient is provided with proper nutritional supplements. This can be a difficult task for those without experience, but with the proper guidance and resources, everyone can learn how to create healthy, nutritious meals that will meet the dietary needs of those they care for.

Depending on the state of their patient, caregivers perform activities such as preparing meals and picking up necessary products. In some cases, they even help feed them with special utensils. This is done if the person has difficulty swallowing or holding utensils. A caregiver may help the patient to use eating utensils, for example by helping them hold spoons or forks.

A caregiver may help feed the ill or elderly person, for example by cutting up their food and making sure they eat it without spilling anything on themselves.

Companionship by Primary Caretaker

A caregiver can help to maintain a positive attitude in the patient during their time of suffering. They can be a shoulder to cry on or offer words of encouragement to get through each day. This is also particularly important when the patient faces uncertainty about their illness or prognosis.

Caregivers also provide emotional support to ill or elderly people by listening to their concerns and offering guidance on how they can deal with different situations.

Caregivers may find that they share the same interests, particularly in older patients who are at a time in their lives when they want to enjoy their retirement and spend time with people who have similar interests.

Companionship is important to the well being of adult children who are unable to live on their own.

The level of companionship needed depends on the severity of their illness. For example, some patients can be left alone during the day with regular visits from their caregiver during certain hours. However, others may need around the clock care every single hour of every day.

Caregivers can fulfill the companionship needs of their patients by engaging in activities the patient enjoys such as reading books or listening to music together. Many seniors enjoy having someone to listen to them and provide emotional support during difficult times.

Medical and Health Checkup

Help with pain medications, and administering injections are necessary responsibilities of primary caregivers. Cleaning up after the person’s illness and doing necessary healthcare arrangements are also included.

Medication may need to be given at specific times during the day. It is common practice for caregivers to help with medication, especially with patients that are confused. Caregivers also monitor the drug dosage and watch out for any side effects.

A caregiver may help check vital signs, for example checking the patient’s pulse and reporting physical symptoms to healthcare providers, family caregivers, or a loved one’s doctor. They may also monitor the person’s general health and notify a doctor of any changes or new symptoms that occur.

Grocery, Transportation & Outdoor Tasks

A primary caregiver not only prepares food, washcloths, and does household chores but also does outdoor tasks. This includes grocery shopping, paying bills, taking out the trash, and other necessary house management activities. A caregiver may also take care of some outdoor gardening tasks.

These tasks can vary from time to time and based on location. For example, a caregiver may do outdoor chores such as mowing grass, shoveling snow, or raking leaves.

The primary caregiver also helps in transportation. This includes taking their patient to medical checkups, helping them get groceries, and to accomplish other errands.

Recreation and Social Activities:

Primary caregivers are integral in helping maintain relationships between the ill or elderly person and friends and family members. They may assist with phone calls, writing letters, or visiting loved ones.

In cases of long term illness, a caregiver can help the patient with hobbies and interests. This may be reading to them or taking them on outings they enjoy.

A caregiver may coordinate visits by friends or loved ones to help maintain the patient’s social life. They can also assist with return visits, for example helping them gather any belongings they left behind.

Finance Management:

A primary caregiver may help a senior with managing their personal finances. This includes balancing a checkbook and paying bills. They may also assist the person to apply for government benefits that they are eligible for.

Caregivers can provide support with finance management such as writing checks or using online banking services. A caregiver can also help by answering questions about retirement benefits or informing them of other programs available to them.


Many primary caregivers also take on the role of household manager, which can include doing laundry, making grocery lists, paying bills, and handling other financial matters. While doing critical tasks, many caregivers forget about personal care and their own health which leads to self neglect. It requires assistance and dividing of the main responsibilities which are not only cost effective but also help in difficult situations and daily activities. Look for certain qualities of caregivers that a person must have before working with them.

You can contact Golden Age Companions for a free consultation and discuss care settings.

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