Although caring for a loved one can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, it can also be one of the most difficult. To ensure that the process goes well while navigating through previously uncharted waters as a family caregiver, you’ll need to understand the challenges ahead and how to prepare accordingly. What follows are some important tips to remember when you find yourself suddenly placed in the position of caring for a loved one. 

Do Your Research

Learn all you can about your loved one’s illness, condition, or disease by talking to their health care providers. What are their anticipated, specific care needs both in the short- and long-term? Get all the information you can from books, pamphlets, and the internet. Are there any specific skills you may need to learn, like safely lifting a person with limited mobility?

Explore Your Options

Write down all the specific activities of daily living (ADLs) needs that your loved one has, like bathing, transportation, meals, etc. Once you have your list, discuss ways to meet those needs with the care recipient, family members, friends, and healthcare providers.

It is also essential to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others based on their time and talents, as a failure to do so will probably result in caregiver burnout.

Research Community Resources

Most communities offer services that support care recipients and their families. Start by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging. Look into other resources like adult day programs, meal delivery services, paratransit services, and professional home care. You can also contact organizations specific to your loved one’s disease or health condition, for example, the Alzheimer’s Association.

Start with Immediate Care Needs

Depending on the immediate needs of your loved one, start recording in a log or journal their eating patterns, medications, and physical signs. While respecting their wishes, adapt the home environment for special needs like a walker, wheelchair, etc.

If other informal caregivers are involved, make a caregiving calendar based on each one’s skills and availability. As the primary caregiver, you’ll also need to have an emergency plan in place if something happens to you.

Organize Essential Information

Organize your loved one’s financial information, like bills, loans, bank accounts, and insurance policies. Photocopy important documents like their social security card, driver’s license, and insurance cards. Write down their doctors’ names, addresses, and phone numbers, along with the medical names of illnesses, medical insurance information, prescription numbers, names, and doses.

Plan Ahead

Educate yourself on the long-term prognosis of your loved one. For example, if your care recipient has a terminal disease, hospice care may be needed in the future. Assess their finances and speak to a financial advisor who is familiar with long-term care issues.

Talk to a lawyer about health care proxy, durable power of attorney, and related topics. If you can afford it, work with a geriatric care manager to help organize and facilitate family meetings and define clear expectations.

Take Care of Yourself

Most importantly, maintaining your loved one’s qual