How to Develop a Caregiving Plan

I first spoke with my parents about their plans for "the future" when Dad retired from his career as a university professor in 1995. Mom had suffered a stroke six years earlier but was still mobile, and Dad was in good health. They had completed advance directives and estate planning.

I involved Mom and Dad in adjusting our caregiving plan when they moved to a senior community.

My  caregiving plan was to help them stay as independent as possible for as long as possible. I'd visit three or four times a year, monitor their needs and coordinate with my sisters to provide support as needed. I knew their needs would increase gradually over time.

But about five years ago Mom's health began to decline rapidly, just as Dad was showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. Clearly, they required a major step-up in assistance. My  caregiving plan had to change.

Since then I've adapted my work to be more flexible. When simply being near my parents wasn't enough, I moved in with them. We've dealt with multiple hospitalizations, nursing facilities, in-home care and, recently, my mom's death. In my book, " Juggling Work and Caregiving," I described our caregiving plan this way:

"Every time I think we have a solid plan in place, our health or financial circumstances change. That means our caregiving plan is a moving target, involving a constant process of re-evaluating and adapting. The one constant is this: At every step, my parents' health, desires and quality of life are the primary drivers."

You might wonder: Why make a plan if it just changes? Because a plan is a framework that guides us and keeps us on track. You can always make new decisions and adjust plans, but there is a lot less stress when we take a bit of time to stop, breathe, evaluate and get a clear picture of needs and resources (both our loved ones' and ours as caregivers). The clarity of a caregiving plan can also help us feel better about asking for help - planning makes it clear that no one can do it all.

Join me on the AARP Live! TV show on Feb. 20 at 10pm ET, when I'll share five steps you can take to create a caregiving plan. I'll also discuss other tips for caregivers, such as how to deal with grief and loss. Submit your questions by calling  877-731-6733, sending a tweet to @aarplive or using #aarplive. I hope you'll join us.

Photo: Amy Goyer

Amy Goyer is AARP's family, caregiving and multigenerational issues expert. She splits her time between Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, where she is caring for her dad, who lives with her. She is the author of AARP's   Juggling Work and Caregiving . Follow Amy on Twitter @amygoyer and on Facebook.


Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
February 04, 2016 09:00 AM
When Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I knew he would need all of his senses to help interpret the world around him and balance his changing cognitive abilities. But he has hearing impairment and limited vision (glaucoma plus visual-processing problems associated with Alzheimer’s). Even though there is only so much I can do about the visual issues, I assumed  hearing aids would solve his auditory problems. I was wrong. The good news is that we eventually discovered a surprisingly simple solution.
February 01, 2016 10:00 AM
The phone rang one day when I was at work. It was my mom. “Come right away, Elaine, we need you,” she said. Mom had just driven Pop to the emergency room. I knew Pop must have been very sick, because Mom hadn’t driven a car in years.
January 21, 2016 01:00 PM
I have been both a live-in caregiver and a long-distance caregiver. In fact, currently, I’m really both. My dad lives with me (as do my sister and her two sons at the moment), and I also travel for work, about a week every month. I’ve learned to manage my loved ones’ care no matter where I am. Here are some of my tips for other long-distance caregivers.