The transition to becoming a caregiver can be gradual or sudden. If you have an aging parent, you should be prepared for either scenario.
If you find yourself on the verge of tackling greater responsibilities for your mom or dad, here are eight tips to help the shift into your new role go smoothly.
1. Talk with your parent about what they want
If your mom or dad’s health permits, ask them about their preferences.
2. Coordinate with your family
Talk with your siblings or other family members who may help with caregiving and the decisions involving care.
To avoid future conflicts, make sure everyone is on the same page regarding your parent’s wishes and needs, and how costs will be managed.
Knowing that you can rely on and confide in family members can ease stress if you decide to become a primary family caregiver.
3. Gather important documents now
Don’t wait for an emergency to learn where your parent’s legal and medical documents are kept.
If you become your parent's primary caregiver, important details and documents you should have, or at least know where they are filed, include:
- Medication list
- Social Security number
- Contact numbers for their physician, pharmacy and lawyer
- Insurance card and policies
- Will, power of attorney and any other care planning documents they have
- Financial accounts, assets and deeds
4. Develop a care plan
Meet with a physician to determine how much assistance your parent requires, deciding if you’ll provide the care alone or with help.
Plans can change rapidly based on your parent’s condition, but having a basic plan after talking with healthcare professionals can help you prepare.
5. Be ready for changes
Stay tuned in to your parent’s health and any potential concerns or conditions.
Know how and what to keep track of, such as blood glucose levels or times medication has been taken.
Recording this information in a notebook or phone app can help you figure out when new issues should be addressed.
6. Figure out costs
Research the costs of providing care, and decide who will cover those expenses and how.
Some decisions that may affect cost include:
- Will your parent move in with you?
- Will you provide transportation to medical appointments and other outings?
- Will a home care 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 anticipate making compromises in to accommodate your new role?
What changes in priorities are acceptable, and what aren't?
Develop a plan for what will be done when you reach your limits.
8. Research care providers
Plan for the possibility that you may eventually need outside help to care for your parent.
Think about what options 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 help ease the anxiety of finding help 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.