The provision of ‘distant’ care to older people living at home through telecare technologies is often contrasted negatively to hands-on, face-to-face care: telecare is seen as a loss of care, a dehumanization. Here we challenge this view, arguing that teleoperators in telecare services do provide care to older people, often at significant emotional cost to themselves. Based on a European Commission-funded ethnographic study of two English telecare monitoring centres, we argue that telecare is not ‘disembodied’ work, but a form of care performed through the use of voice, knowledge sharing and emotional labour or self-management. We also show, in distinction to discourses promoting telecare in the UK, that successful telecare relies on the existence of social networks and the availability of hands-on care. Telecare is not a substitute for, or the opposite of, hands-on care but is at its best interwoven with it.