Becoming a Caregiver: What to Consider

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Updated November 16, 2023
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Key Takeaways

When becoming a caregiver for a loved one, it is important to consider your capabilities, your loved one's ability to remain in their home, and how this change may impact your family. To prepare for caregiving responsibilities, you must create a plan, prioritize safety, lean on community and support groups, practice self-care, and continue checking in with yourself.

Becoming a Caregiver for my Loved One

If you have a loved one with memory decline or difficulty completing daily tasks, you may be wondering how to provide support. Perhaps you’re looking into home care options or a senior living community. Or you might be thinking about becoming their primary caregiver. Many caregivers take on this role because they want to give back, feel a sense of duty, or enjoy caregiving.

Becoming a caregiver requires supporting the person you are caring for, while also making sure you are supported in this journey.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Becoming a Caregiver

Here are three important questions to consider:

  1. Can your loved one stay in their home with your support?
    Identifying your loved one’s care needs can help you better understand what level of care they may need. Being honest about how much care they need and how that can be provided by you or other supportive options will promote the highest level of success.

  2. How can you care for your loved one without denying attention to others in your family or yourself?
    Caregiving can be very taxing on your physical and emotional health. Understanding your own limitations, and how you may need support, will help you to make sure you are equipped to be the best caregiver possible. Often that can mean setting aside specific respite times where friends, family, or professional help may provide care to give you a break.

  3. Are you capable of providing the care your loved one needs?
    Caring for a loved one can mean many different things. It may mean ordering groceries online and putting them away, or it may mean fully assisting with bathing, dressing, and toileting. Understanding what your limitations may be ahead of time can allow you to arrange alternate help options while preserving your wellbeing.

How to prepare to be a new caregiver

As you adopt the caregiver role, you’ll be taking on a wide range of new responsibilities. When beginning your caregiver journey, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Check for safety

Identify risks within the home and modify the environment to create a safe and accessible space for your loved one. A few good places to start: Make sure the home is clear of clutter that may impede mobility, remove scatter rugs that could contribute to a fall, and check that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.

Create a plan

Connect with your local fire department and police station about File of Life, a document with special instructions and vital information that will help during a medical emergency. This document should be updated regularly and kept in a visible place, like the front of the refrigerator, in case of emergency.

Don’t go at it alone

Delegate tasks to family, friends, and neighbors willing to help lighten the workload with specific tasks (get groceries, drive to appointments, do laundry, etc.). Even if you don’t need these supports regularly, using them when you are starting to feel overwhelmed may help you feel like a more capable caregiver long-term.

Utilize your community

Identify your local Area Agency on Aging for resources such as Meals on Wheels. Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, and libraries are great places to find resources to help care for your loved one, but they also offer many caregiver support resources such as support groups and online forums. Many senior centers and libraries also offer free or low-cost presentations on caregiving topics, and access to resources such as elder law attorneys, health insurance counselors, and more.

Bring in professional help

Look into local Home Care Agencies to assist with care. Consider other care settings. Locate some Adult Day Centers where your loved one can socialize and be safe.

There may be tasks that are challenging for you to complete. Whether it be bathing and dressing or supervising during specific hours of the day, home care agencies can provide qualified caregivers to assist your loved one. Formal support options can be a helpful complement to the great care that you are providing!

Learn about respite

Nearby respite options can be a good solution if you need short-term care. Your doctor and the local Area Agency on Aging can assist with this.

Respite can take on many forms, including in-home care or facility care. Although these options feel difficult to put in place, they allow you to step outside of your caregiving role for a period of time. Many caregivers will actually schedule respite throughout the year to prevent burnout.

Check in with yourself often

Identify when you are feeling frustrated, angry, tired, or stressed. Then create strategies to help with those feelings — count to 10, listen to music, breathe, call a friend, etc.

Everyone copes differently and it is important to understand what will help you feel refreshed. Making a list of things that can be completed quickly, with few resources, can be helpful in the moment. It is also important to think of long-term strategies for taking care of yourself. Scheduling regular time for yourself will help you be the best caregiver possible.

Know when to ask for help and reach out

Have a backup plan for additional support if you need a break or for unexpected emergencies.

A backup plan can be friends, family, hired home care, or even creative solutions like apps to help with groceries, meal prep, or medication check ins. For true emergencies, a backup plan is critical to keep your loved one safe should you not be able to assist them.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a caregiver comes with many challenges, but when you find the right care option, it can be a very rewarding endeavor for you, your loved one, and the rest of your family.

Explore more care options

Becoming a caregiver is incredibly admirable and shows that you want quality care and support for your loved one. If you need supportive, quality home care near you, search our Quality Care Network.

Expert reviewed by

Kelly Briggs

Kelly Briggs, M.A., LSW, CCM

Kelly is a Licensed Social Worker and Board-Certified Case Manager with a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a certificate in trauma studies. She is passionate about helping aging adults and their caregivers understand options, feel empowered in their decision making, ...

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Written by

Linda Watts

Linda Watts

Linda Watts leads content and brand voice for CareScout. She has 20+ years experience building marketing content, teams, and infrastructure for healthcare organizations, including hospitals, payers, and long-term care providers. Her goal is to help care seekers understand their options, find the ...

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