Caregiver or caretaker

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Caregiver and caretaker are two words that appear to be antonyms, but they are not. These two words are etymologically related, but have two distinctly different definitions. We will examine the meanings of the words caregiver and caretaker, where these words came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

A caregiver is someone who provides services to someone who is unable to care for himself. A caregiver may support an elderly person, a handicapped person, or a chronically or terminally ill person. The term caregiver may apply to a loved one, friend, or neighbor who cares for the incapacitated person, or it may apply to a paid paraprofessional who provides services. Informal caregivers may provide homecare that includes daily tasks such as light housekeeping, personal care, grocery shopping and other errands, simple home repairs, and yard work. Providing care for family members with chronic conditions or eldercare patients with dementia or Alzheimer disease can cause burnout for caregivers. A primary caregiver should reach out to community-based services, a support line, or a home care agency to ask for help when a home care situation becomes too much for family caregivers. The caregiver must also look after her own physical health and should look for social support in support groups for her own emotional support. The elderly and ill who need more than aging services because they have passed into the stage where they need light skilled nursing or hospice care or palliative services must accept outside care at home, or may have to consider moving to a nursing facility or hospice center to take advantage of their care services. The word caregiver is a closed compound word, which is a word composed of two separate words joined together without a hyphen or a space. Caregiver was coined in the United States in the mid-1970s.

A caretaker is someone who protects and provides upkeep to a building or a patch of real estate. Cemeteries often employ caretakers who live on the property and provide upkeep and deter vandalism. The word caretaker is also used to mean someone who holds a position or office temporarily while a new officer is elected or chosen. In this case, a caretaker makes sure the day to day activities are taken care of in a business or political office, but he is only an interim leader. Caretaker is also used to mean someone who takes care of people or animals, but especially in America, the term caregiver is used more often in this sense. Caretaker is not the antonym or opposite of the word caregiver. The word caretaker is a closed compound word that came into use in the mid-1700s.


While caring for someone can be rewarding, it’s also exhausting and can take an emotional, physical and financial toll on the caregiver. (The Dallas Morning News)

According to the U.S. Census, by 2035, older generations are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, thus increasing the need for caregivers. (The Minnesota-Grove News Journal)

McInnes had been a long-term resident of the building at 1835 Morton Ave. as well as serving on the co-op board, and Croker was the building’s caretaker. (The Vancouver Sun)

Inspectors are also searching for evidence of the building’s caretaker, Mike Draeger, who has been unaccounted for since the fire broke out. (Victoria News)

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