Becoming a Family Caregiver

Updated on November 19, 2011
Karen Peebles

By Karen Peebles
South Carolina Community Outreach Manager
Care Improvement Plus

In November, the nation will celebrate National Family Caregivers Month honoring the more than 65 million Americans who care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly loved one – a figure that is growing as the baby boomer generation enters Medicare.

Many times, a crisis can lead to family members becoming caregivers unexpectedly. Others gradually transition into the role of caregiver over time. Regardless, the new responsibilities of caring for a chronically ill loved one can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing at times. For these individuals, gaining a better understanding of their new caregiver roles and responsibilities will help them to advocate for their loved one.

In partnership with the National Family Caregivers Association, Care Improvement Plus offers the following five helpful tips to those who find themselves serving in a new role as a family caregiver:

  • Knowledge is power. Do your research. Understanding your loved one’s chronic health condition(s) will help you have educated conversations with the various medical professionals responsible for your loved one’s treatment—allowing you to serve as a better advocate for their health needs.
  • Get acquainted and ask questions. Attend medical appointments with your loved one when you can. Secure permission from your loved one to speak with their physicians and specialists about their care – a release form is typically required by each office. Introduce yourself to these providers, and ask questions about diagnoses, medications, and ongoing care needs. These steps will help you to avoid potential barriers in obtaining important information in the future.
  • Talk to your loved one. Talk to your loved one about their current health insurance, living will, and desired power of attorney arrangements. Work with them to ensure that all legal issues are in order before you assume primary responsibility for their care.
  • Explore your options. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 67 percent of family caregivers report conflicts between caregiving and personal employment, resulting in reduced work hours or unpaid leave.
  •  Community groups and adult day programs can help to support or relieve caregivers during work hours. Additionally, some health plans like Care Improvement Plus, coordinate transportation to physician appointments, which can help lessen the scheduling burden for caregivers who work full-time.
  • Seek support. Although there are millions of caregivers in the world, many often feel isolated as they take on more responsibility. Whether it’s through the Internet or a local support group, caregivers should seek support services to help them navigate the world of caregiving. Websites like also offer helpful information and support resources for caregivers.

Care Improvement Plus provides specialized Medicare coverage for underserved and chronically ill beneficiaries in South Carolina, and is a 2011 Corporate Partner of the National Family Caregivers Association. To learn more, call 1-866-727-6646 or visit

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