Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Getting Started

Preparing for Caregiving

When people go through any major life change—graduation, marriage, parenthood—there is often a period of learning and preparation. However, we are rarely given the opportunity or skills to get ready to care for an elder. The following tips will help you prepare for your new role.

Anticipating Care Needs

If you have an elderly parent or relative in your family, you may soon become a caregiver. Planning ahead is a luxury that many caregivers do not have, but most experienced caregivers say they wish they had started to prepare before facing a crisis. A few key questions to answer are:

  • Do I know what my elder's wishes would be if she or he were unable to make medical decisions?
  • Do I know where important documents, such as insurance, wills, or financial statements are located?
  • Do I have the authority to take over his or her finances if the elder in my care can no longer manage money?
  • Has the elder set up legally binding documents stating his or her wishes about health care decisions?

Assessing Care Needs

It is common when first facing eldercare issues to feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. The first step is to develop a care plan based on a careful assessment of current needs. The plan will depend in part on whether your elder has had a sudden health crisis, a medical condition that is progressive, such as dementia or vision deterioration, or has needs due to a normal and gradual process of aging. But a plan is only as good as the information it is based on. Ask yourself:

  • How do I assess what kind of care is needed?
  • How can I get help in making this assessment?
  • Once I understand the needs, what kind of services should be put in place?
  • What services will be needed down the road?

For more about assessment of needs, see Home Care and Support Groups & Services.

Assessing Your Needs

Many caregivers do not think about their own needs, but in order to manage caregiving over time—days, months, or years—you should think about your own needs, not just those of the elder you are caring for. Ask yourself:

  • Can I manage these services by myself?
  • How can I get support or take a break?
  • How do I take care of myself?

For more about caregiver support, see Caring for the Caregiver.

Continue to Finding Eldercare Services...