Updated: May 11
Whether it’s a slow progressive illness, or a sudden affliction, many people find themselves having to provide care and assistance to a loved one and feeling very uncertain about the journey ahead. Regardless of the nature of the transition, it can be quite the adjustment to become a caregiver or assume a “parenting” role to an ailing loved one who may actually be one’s own parent. Though much of the journey may be trial and error, there are a few steps new caregivers can take to prepare.
Here are some first steps for anyone who is in the process of becoming a caregiver for a relative:
1. Recognize the Signs
Everyone’s needs are different and there isn’t one set of circumstances that mean caregiving is necessary, but there are a few common signs that can suggest extra assistance would be prudent. Have bills (or other important matters) become neglected? Are there dents in the car? Have accidents been happening more and more frequently? Whether it’s help with minor tasks around the house that a loved one can no longer do, or more constant care and 24-hour supervision, the very first step to stepping into the role of caregiver is assessing a loved one’s needs.
For more information on how to determine whether or not extra care is necessary, check out one of our past Medical Moments on this topic.
2. Develop a Care Plan
Once needs have been assessed, then new caregivers can begin to develop a caregiving plan to address them. Depending on the sick or ailing person’s needs, tasks may need to be divided among multiple people. Additionally, if a loved one is battling a particular medical condition, it will be necessary to work closely with their physician to discuss how best to support their treatment in regards to administering medication, changing dressings, and other necessary tasks that a caregiver may need to take care of.
For more information, on how to go about building a care team and which duties to assign, read our article on this topic.
3. Transform Your Home
In many cases, the care that a sick or ailing loved one needs, the more home improvements become essential. Fortunately, a full home renovation project isn’t always necessary, and there are a few simple things that can be done to create a safe, comfortable and effective environment for offering care. Clear floors of clutter, cords or other tripping hazards and invest in a non-slip pad to go underneath any rugs in the home. Opt for grab bars in the bathroom to help avoid slips and falls in the shower/tub. Use gait belts to help transfer a loved one up from one sitting location to another.
For more information on tools to help simplify caregiving, watch our Medical Moment on the topic.
4. Review Your Finances
New caregivers will soon find that providing care and assistance to another person can quickly add up. Review a loved one’s accounts and savings to help cover the costs, while including them in the process as much as possible. Check eligibility for assistance in the form of veteran’s aid (if a loved one has served), caregiver assistance from an employer (if offered), or Medicaid’s caregiver support program, Cash & Counseling.
If a new caregiver is going to be making decisions about a loved one’s medical care, they can take on the role of Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA). If also taking control of a sick or ailing loved one’s finances, then new caregivers will need to thoroughly review that person’s assets and liabilities and formally be appointed as the Power of Attorney (POA).
Hopefully these tips will help a new caregiver take the first steps on their caregiving journey!