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Survival Guide for New Caregivers

by Kathy Macaraeg

Whether you saw it coming or not, caring for an aging parent can be a challenge. Your parent may have been on a gradual decline, giving you the opportunity to plan ahead and implement care strategies a little bit at a time; or your parent may have taken a fall and broken a hip, resulting in the need for immediate care.

Whatever the case, jumping into the role of caregiver can be overwhelming. What steps do you need to take to ensure your parent is properly cared for? How can you fit it into your already full life? Where can you turn for help?

Assess the Situation

Before you jump in head first, step back and decide what your parent needs. If your parent has his/her cognitive functioning intact, consult them to decide what type of care they would prefer and what is needed.

Some questions to consider:

  • Do they need short term or long term assistance? Even if this is a new injury, bear in mind that as we age, it takes longer to heal. Your parent may need help getting to physical therapy appointments, performing certain activities of daily living, etc. for more than a few weeks. I had a client who had a broken hip, that resulted in surgery and three months of recovery. Even after the three month recovery time, a year later, she still lamented about her challenges getting up and down stairs.
  • What type of assistance do they need? Do they need someone to assist with activities of daily living? Do they need food delivered? Do they need transportation to medical appointments or physical therapy?
  • Is their home suitable for them to age in place or do they need to make changes, or explore other housing options?
  • What is your budget? Are there funds available to tap into? If not, are there other family members who can assist and/or help cover costs?

Make a Plan

Once you’ve assessed the situation, you can develop a plan of action. Whether you need long- or short-term assistance, you will need to decide who will do what activities and how frequently. If you are working with siblings or other family members, you should consider all sitting down together to develop a schedule and plan. Just in case, you may want to refer to my sibling rivalry post before having your family meeting.

Here are some things you can do to make caregiving run smoother:

  • Create a shared calendar (Google offers free calendars that you can share) to post medical appointments, physical therapy appointments and any other transportation needs that will require a volunteer or service.
  • Decide who will handle researching services and benefits available to your parent and agree on a timeline.
  • Determine which tasks can be handled by family members and which tasks to outsource and set up a schedule. If you lay out all of the possibilities ahead of time and address expectations, there is less room for confusion and frustration later.
  • Decide how long you will need outside support and how much you will use. If you will be using outside support indefinitely, decide how you will ensure your parent is receiving proper care.
  • If your parent will ultimately need to move into an assisted living facility, work together to decide on timing and how to make the transition easier for your parent.

Common Caregiving Tasks to Discuss

  • Who is purchasing groceries and how frequently?
  • How will meals be handled? Will you use a service or will someone provide meals for your parent?
  • Who is hiring and overseeing hired caregivers? What are the expectations and how frequently will you use outside help? Who will pay?
  • Who is handling bill paying? How frequently will bills be paid and how will your parent can access funds for incidentals?
  • Who will handle cleaning/maintaining your parent’s home?
  • Who will handle transportation needs (either providing transportation or securing transportation)?
  • If your parent needs personal care (bathing, dressing, feeding), who will handle those tasks?


You will have many other tasks to consider, this is just a general list to get the ball rolling. If you are in need of long-term assistance, check out my resources page for links to benefits for seniors. Bear in mind that many services take several weeks to start, so the earlier you get the application submitted, the better.


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