Is there a difference between a Carer and a Personal Assistant? And does it matter?

Terminology makes a difference in understanding whether you need a Carer or a Personal Assistant. You need to understand the differences to be crystal clear in deciding what support you need and the best way to get it.


To understand the difference between a Carer and a Personal Assistant, let’s go back to precise definitions:

What is a Carer? “A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.”

Definition of a carer

In this context, a Carer is likely to take on tasks related to grooming, bathing, housekeeping, cooking meals rather than undertake any personal administration.

For this article when we use the term Carer, we are referring to paid care workers.

What is a Personal Assistant? When you type in ‘hiring a PA’ (which is the abbreviated term) into Google, you get all sorts.

Difference between a PA and a PCA

From Physician Assistants to Personal Assistants for businesses and CEOs and in this context it means “a secretary or administrative assistant working exclusively for one particular person.”

Definition of a personal assistant


When would a Carer be a good choice?

You may use a Carer in one or a combination of these circumstances:

1. Your Local Authority may provide you with a Carer therefore they arrange everything for you. In this example, you limited or choice over the Carer they provide you with and the tasks they undertake.

2. You need care support but you don’t want to take on the responsibility of being an employer. Here you go to a care agency who finds a Carer on your behalf. They are employed by the care agency and whilst you have a say over the tasks they do for you, you cannot chose the actual Carer.

3.  You need more housekeeping support.  For example laundry, meal preparation, help to take your medicines and light cleaning duties.

4.  You need personal care support such as help with dressing, eating, bathing, showering and going to the toilet.

In these situations you find that Carers are a popular choice.  In fact, according to Unison, there are over half a million care workers in the UK alone.

Although you may not directly hire a Carer to provide the support you need, it’s important to know their rights as this will impact the amount it costs you and way in which they can support you.

But what about a Personal Assistant?  When should I consider that role?

A Personal Assistant, or Personal Care Assistant as they are sometimes referred as, are usually direct employees of the person with care needs.

In this situation you directly employ a Personal Assistant to help you as you prefer more choice.  Let’s remember, personal assistance came from the Independent Living Movement as it enabled thousands of disabled people to take control of their own support.

A Personal Assistant is also a good choice when you have additional administrative tasks that you need support with.  For example, you may hire someone who helps you write and respond to emails, takes telephone calls on your behalf, supports with household administration.  This may or may not additionally include elements of personal care support that a Carer would traditional provide.

That’s the beauty of being an employer.  Whilst it is a challenge to manage the legal responsibilities, you get to choose the support you need.

To help you understand the role in more detail, check out our post the Role of a Personal Assistant. You can find out more about writing your own Personal Care Assistant job description or even check out Probably the best Personal Assistant Carer job description you’ll ever find that shows an alternative job description template.

What’s important to you is what matters

In summary, whether you use a Carer or a Personal Assistant to provide the support, don’t start with the title.

Highlight what you need, how you need it and evaluate whether you would like to contract in support (via a Care Agency) or employ your own (via a Personal Assistant).

Yes there is a difference between a Carer and a Personal Assistant but mainly it is due to terminology and the detailed aspects of the role expectations.

There is no right or wrong decision.  Choose only what makes sense to you.

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