Everything You Need to Know Before Becoming a Family Caregiver

Caring for a loved one with a physical or mental disability or a chronic condition is not easy. But that’s what several thousands of Americans are doing today to help their loved ones lead as normal a life as possible. Families depend on younger or abler family members, friends, neighbors, or partners to assist older members of the family who are no longer able to function independently. These people act as short or long-term caregivers, volunteering their time and energy to care for the needs of their loved ones. Here’s a look at who a family caregiver is, what they do, and how they differ from medical caregivers.

Who is a family caregiver?

A family caregiver provides a wide range of assistance to a child, an adult, or an older person with limitations in their mental, physical or cognitive functioning. A family caregiver shares a significant personal relationship with the person they take care of (recipient) and could be a family member, neighbor, partner, or even a friend. They provide primary or secondary assistance and may or may not live with the person they assist.

What is the difference between a family caregiver and a caregiver?

Family caregivers share a personal relationship with the recipient. Their involvement is determined by their personal relationship with the recipient rather than financial remuneration. Family caregivers offer their help voluntarily and are often not paid for their services. They usually have little or no professional training in caring for the recipient, providing care episodically, daily, occasionally, or for short or long durations.

What is the role of a family caregiver?

A family caregiver’s role can be defined in terms of both duration and intensity and are highly variable across caregiving. The general function of a caregiver is to:

·        Provide the recipient with companionship in and out of the home.

·        Assist with the recipient’s personal care – dressing, bathroom use, and hygiene.

·        Help the recipient in and out of bed and move about.

·        Oversee prescription usage, administer medicines and remind about appointments.

·        Document and report changes (if any) in the recipient’s health status.

·        Ensure the recipient’s safety and well-being.

Family caregivers might also assist with:

·        Housekeeping, preparing meals, and running errands for the recipient.

·        Drive the recipient to and from various activities.

·        Being a stable supporter and guardian of matters related to health and personal and emotional issues.

In instances where the recipient is seriously ill, a family caregiver is often in charge of performing complex medical and therapeutic tasks and handling medical equipment like:

·        Catheters

·        Drainage tubes

·        Feeding tubes

·        Tracheostomies

A family caregiver is also expected to communicate with others in charge of the recipient’s health. These could be the recipient’s physician assistant, physician, nurses, social worker, pharmacist, occupational or physical therapist, personal care aides, etc. They must also be well-versed with the recipient’s:

·        Health history

·        Social support

·        Medications

·        Past diagnoses

·        Previous surgeries (if any) and treatments

Logistics and planning are also a part of a caregiver’s role – whether planning the day or making adequate preparations with a hotel in advance before going on holiday with the recipient.

Getting paid as a family caregiver

Several states across the United States offer programs that help family members to provide non-medical assistance to loved ones. There are specific criteria for family caregivers to participate in these programs. For example, California’s Paid Family Leave Act allows relatives to take time off to care for their loved ones while they continue to receive a certain percentage of their salary. Veteran Directed Care is another program for veterans who require care at home that is on par which the care provided in a nursing home. The program gives veterans the option to receive care at home and pay the family member or friend providing them with that care.

Caregiver insurance is another excellent option, given that caregivers often work with fragile people. Accidents are just that – an accident. But even a minor accident could result in an expensive lawsuit. Caregiver insurance can give you the peace of mind that you are protected, even while taking care of your loved one. Find out more here.

Caregiving intervention

There are two types of caregiver interventions available. The first type of intervention aims at reducing the amount of care provided by caregivers through respite and training to increase the competence of caregivers. The second is psychoeducational/psychotherapeutic intervention to improve the family caregiver’s well-being and coping skills.


As a caregiver, you will be expected to fulfill numerous roles, and your job might get more challenging as your recipient gets older. Caregiving can also infringe on your day-to-day life and take a toll on your physical and psychological health. Being a family caregiver is not always easy, but it is a rewarding job because you will be caring for someone you love. With the right insurance and financial help, you will be able to give your loved one all the love, attention, and care they need.

Categorized as Health

By Finn

Finn Oliver Edwards: Finn, a pediatric nurse, shares child health tips, parenting advice, and preventive measures for common childhood illnesses.