Family caregivers have to be available and present for their loved ones, 24/7, 365 days a year. But what happens when life interferes with their availability? Rather than wait until it is too late, now is the best time start planning for changing circumstances or emergencies. 

Who will care for your loved ones if you can’t?

The first step in a caregiving plan would be to identify who would care for your loved one if you couldn’t. You may have a spouse or partner who could cover for you in your absence. If you are caregiving on your own with no support, you could interview trusted home care services, and find an agency that you and your loved one feel comfortable with. Other possibilities for care could be friends or neighbors who would be willing to step in temporarily.

For this to work, caregivers will need to make sure the individuals agreeing to take over caregiving duties are all in and understand the responsibilities, especially when it comes to COVID-19 safety protocols. Caregiving is not easy, and others may not be aware of the totality of the work involved when taking on this role. 

The best way to plan for your absence is to prepare a detailed schedule of your daily caregiving activities so that your substitute can provide your loved one with a consistent routine. And as businesses and services continue to welcome employees back, caregivers who were home during the pandemic may have to return to work. Change can be hard for older adults to accept, but planning in advance for the possibility can help reduce stress and anxiety.

It might be a good idea to test the plan in advance, while you are still available to assist. If your loved one has some time to adapt to their new caregiver when you are present, it might make the change less stressful to you and your loved one when the actual transition occurs. You’ll see that the new caregiver is competent and caring, and your loved one will be able to slowly accept a new caregiver in their life.

Your loved one will adapt to your absence more easily if it is temporary or if you are just returning to work. However, having a plan in place in case you can’t return is important, too.

What if you become seriously ill, or pass away?

This is never an easy situation, and for a loved one with cognitive or physical challenges who has come to depend on you, it can be extremely stressful. You know your loved one best, so how you handle this will depend on your individual circumstances. Having a conversation with your loved one about their future care if you are not there could cause extreme anxiety, so consider if this type of discussion is helpful before you attempt it.

In some cases, a loved one may feel relief knowing that there is a plan for their future care if you are incapacitated. You may want to consult with other family members or the future caregiver(s) you have chosen before deciding to talk about this with your loved one.

Caregiving plans should include legal documents

Having a will and medical directive in place for both you and your loved one should be something you do regardless of your medical situation. Wills and medical directives make everything easier, especially when you or your loved one pass away or become seriously ill or incapacitated. Wills and other legal documents spell out in writing how estates are to be distributed, so that when the time comes, everything is already decided.

If you have any concerns about how your loved one will be cared for if you pass away or if you are unable to make decisions, consult an attorney now so that your affairs and wishes (and your loved one’s too) are in writing.

In the end, creating a contingency caregiving plan doesn’t have to be complicated and can actually take pressure off of caregivers if they know their loved ones will be safe, secure and cared for if something happens. The best time to plan for a crisis is before one ever happens. Planning now will pay off in peace of mind in the years ahead.