The transition to becoming an aging parent's caregiver can be gradual or sudden.
If you find yourself on the verge of more responsibilities for your mom or dad, here are eight tips to help you shift into your new role smoothly.
1. Talk with your parent about what they want
Ask your parent about their preferences if their health permits.
- Are they comfortable with you becoming a primary caregiver?
- Would they like extra help from an in-home care provider?
- Is moving to assisted living an option?
2. Coordinate with your family
Talk with your siblings or other family members. Discussing care decisions now can prevent future misunderstandings. Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding your parent's wishes and needs, and how costs will be managed.
Having family members to rely on and confide in can help ease your stress if you become the primary caregiver.
3. Gather important documents now
Don’t wait for an emergency. Find out where your parent keeps their legal and medical documents.
As a primary caregiver, you should have these documents or know where they are:
- Medication list
- Social Security number
- Contact numbers for their physician, pharmacy and lawyer
- Insurance card and policies
- Will, power of attorney and any advance care planning documents
- Financial accounts, assets and deeds
4. Develop a care plan
Meet with a physician to determine how much assistance your parent needs and decide if you’ll provide the care alone or with help.
Plans can change rapidly based on your parent’s condition. Having a basic plan after talking with health care professionals can help you prepare.
5. Be ready for changes
Keep an eye on your parent’s health and any potential concerns or conditions.
Know what to keep track of, including blood glucose levels or when they've taken their medications. Record this information in a notebook or phone app. Keeping track can help you spot new issues early.
6. Figure out costs
Research the costs of providing care. Decide who will cover those expenses and how.
These decisions can affect cost:
- Will your parent move in with you?
- Will you provide transportation to medical appointments and other outings?
- Will a home health worker provide care while you’re at work?
7. Define limits
Consider how much you can dedicate to your caregiver role. Being a primary caregiver will affect your budget, time commitments and physical demands.
What parts of your life can you make compromises in to adapt to your new role? What changes are acceptable and what aren’t?
Caregiving is stressful. Develop a plan for dealing with caregiver burnout. Explore caregiver support services.
Learn about your respite care options. Respite care provides short-term, around-the-clock care.
8. Research care providers
You may eventually need outside help to care for your parent. Consider what services may be right for your parent's needs.
Start researching senior services in your area.
Taking the time now to compile information — and to schedule some community tours or in-home consultations — can ease the stress of finding help when under pressure.
Not sure what to do next?
We can help you find the resources and options that are right for you and your family.