How to find support when you’re caring for a loved one

You don’t need to do it alone. Here are the people and organizations that can help support you.

Elizabeth Millard
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In the United States, nearly 44 million adults help care for loved ones, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. If you’re new to providing care for a family member, friend or neighbor, it can feel challenging to consider the tasks that might be ahead, from health concerns to insurance nuances and financial oversight.  

The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. There are many resources and experts who can be part of the caregiving team — including UnitedHealthcare®. Here’s how to get started. 

Have an honest conversation 

This time of transition may be challenging for your loved one, says Iris Waichler, L.C.S.W., a medical social worker and author who leads workshops on caregiving.  There might be concerns about losing independence, so putting their needs front and center is important. Talk about fears and concerns, including your own.  

Most of all, really listen. Sometimes, all your loved one might need is assurance that they’ll be able to participate in some of the decision-making about their care, or that they can continue doing activities they love, says Waichler. Emphasize that you’ll be working together to keep your loved one healthy, safe and happy. 

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Talk to health care team members 

Staying connected with your loved one’s health team is an important part of providing care, says Waichler. You’ll likely need to:

  • Make appointments
  • Discuss prescription medications and treatment options
  • Talk to specialists
  • Help stay on top of health concerns 

You may also be reaching out to professionals like social workers, physical therapists, pharmacists and others. Additional family members, clergy and your loved one’s friends are also important players on the care team. And don’t forget that UnitedHealthcare is here to help connect you with a wide mix of support services. 

“A good first step is educating yourself about your loved one’s medical condition, or conditions, so you know what to anticipate in terms of their care needs,” says Waichler. “Talk with their doctor and learn what you can about how their health will progress. This will help you prepare for your new role.” 

Your loved one will need to make sure that you are listed as a personal representative with each health care provider. That way the health care team will be able to share important information with you about your loved one’s treatment plan and condition.  

If your loved one has a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan, they can share access to their account with a spouse, partner, family member or trusted friend. Having this access as an Authorized Representative helps you connect with support services that are tailored to your loved one’s specific needs. You can help your loved one look up coverage and benefits, or refill prescriptions.

The benefits of shared account access

When your loved one adds an Authorized Representative to their UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage account, they’ll have the added peace of mind that someone they trust will be able to assist them with important matters related to their health care services.

To start the quick process:

  1. Have your loved one sign in to their plan website.
  2. Direct them to Forms and Resources at the bottom of the home page.
  3. Look for Authorization Forms and Information.

Or call the Customer Service number on the back of their member ID card.

If you’re a UnitedHealthcare member who is receiving care, you can add an Authorized Representative to your account using the above steps.

Not a member? Learn more here.  

Consider Renew resources 

Renew is UnitedHealthcare’s health and wellness experience that has resources that can help support you and your care recipient in this new journey. For example, you’ll find helpful guides on providing confident care, whether that’s for someone with Alzheimer’s or a loved one who needs temporary care after a hip or knee replacement. 

There’s also a 30-minute online learning course that focuses on helping you balance the care you’ll be providing to your loved one with the care you need to give yourself so that you can remain healthy and active. You’ll get an insider’s view of providing care for another. Plus, you’ll learn to spot if your loved one may need more help and how to act in their best interest.

You’ll be navigating many new experiences that require you to act in your loved one’s best interest while making sure you nurture your own needs, too. Fortunately, Renew has plenty of articles and tools that can help suit your needs in the moment.

Make Renew part of your support team

  • To take advantage of all the great caregiver resources mentioned, sign in to your loved one’s plan website and click on Health & Wellness. Then find Caregiving in the Quick Links section.
  • To access the online learning course on caregiving click here.
  • To be listed as a caregiver on your loved one’s account, call the Customer Service number on the back of their member ID card.

Not a member? Learn more here

Make time for you 

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, acknowledge that you’ll need to make changes for yourself as well, says Waichler.  

“Be realistic in terms of expectations of yourself,” says Waichler. “You will find yourself balancing many tasks and roles, and there will be moments when you feel you have fallen short, so be kind to yourself.”  

She adds that you should have a time-out plan in place from the start so you can regularly take breaks to recharge. After all, even selfless people need a little fun time! 

This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, adds Waichler. If you don’t live with your loved one, for example, you could pad your commute time with 10 extra minutes to enjoy a walk before you arrive. Or, if you do share a home, take advantage of those moments when your loved one is napping or watching TV to write in a journal or do some light stretches.  

Many caregivers also turn to support groups for encouragement. Your loved one’s health care team may know of local family and/or caregiver support groups that are specific to your loved one’s health condition.

Or take advantage of UnitedHealthcare’s Caregiver Resources page. Here, you can find links to a number of national organizations that host support groups. This page also includes everything from planning guides and organizational tools to articles on self-care and managing specific health conditions.

One last bit of advice from Waichler: Enjoy this special time with your loved one. “Caregiving provides a unique opportunity be able to give back,” she says. “Many caregivers find that their bonds grow deeper, and they feel an enormous satisfaction from being able to help those they love most.  

“Yes, caregiving can be difficult,” she adds, “but it’s also deeply rewarding.” 

Join your loved one for their Annual Wellness Visit   

This important yearly checkup can help you and your loved one’s health care provider keep tabs on their overall health and well-being. It’s also a great time for you to better understand their condition. To get started:  

  1. Schedule the appointment. If you need help finding a network provider, our online search tools can help. Sign in to your loved one’s plan website and click on Find Care.  
  2. Download the Annual Care Checklist. Use this list of health topics to get the conversation started with the provider. Go to the Health & Wellness section of your loved one's plan website and type Annual Care Checklist in the search bar.
  3. Call Customer Service if you have questions. Our team is here for you 7 days a week. Call the number on the back of your loved one’s member ID card.  

Not a member? Learn more here.