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  • Lesson plan
  • Grades 11-12

Family and Caregiving: The Challenge of Caring for Our Elders

Going Further

1) Preparing to Care
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to establishing a successful dynamic between family caregivers and their elderly relatives is the reluctance to plan ahead and discuss sensitive issues related to elder care. It can be disheartening to talk about “what ifs” with a loved one, but it can also be overwhelming to organize resources and a plan of care in the midst of a life-changing event that curtails the elder’s self-sufficiency.

Have participants develop hypothetical plans of care using the following tips from the AARP Foundation’s Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families:

Creating A Caregiving Plan in Five Steps

Step 1: Prepare Yourself and Your Family

Step 2: Form a Caregiving Team to Evaluate Your Aging Loved One’s Needs

Step 3: Assess Your Aging Loved One’s Needs (see below)

Step 4: Establish Your Plan

Step 5: Take Action and Maintain Open Communication with All Stakeholders

Assess Your Aging Loved One’s Needs

In order to develop a thorough but efficient caregiving plan, it is important to understand exactly what your loved one’s needs are. Begin with the following questions to help organize your thoughts, then transition to a more detailed assessment of the needs in each category listed below:

Big Picture Questions:

  • What care is needed?
  • What will your role be in providing care?
  • Will you provide the care or do you need to organize professional in-home care?
  • When and how long will the care be needed? Will it be daily, weekly or 24-hour care?
  • Is this a short-term or long-term care situation?
  • Do you have the training needed to support your aging loved one?

Assessment Categories:

Note: See the AARP Assessment Checklist for additional details:

  1. Physical health
  2. Mental health
  3. Medication use
  4. Daily living
  5. Home and community safety
  6. Support system
  7. Appearance and hygiene
  8. Finances
  9. Interests/lifestyles/hobbies

2) Caring for the Caregiver
An estimated 25.5 million Americans face the challenge of balancing work responsibilities with caring for a relative aged 50 or older. Not surprisingly, caregivers often find themselves emotionally drained, physically exhausted and also financially stretched as they try to reconcile their caregiving commitments with their own responsibilities and needs.

Have participants explore the growing demand for and needs of family caregivers, as well as the range of resources and training currently available. Ask them to examine the demographics of caregivers and what groups are carrying the majority of caregiver responsibilities as well as the following:

  • How is the increasing need for caregivers affecting individuals, families and communities?
  • What governmental and/or institutional supports and resources are still needed or inadequately available? How would these resources improve the caregiving experience for family members and seniors?
  • What impact does long-term care insurance have on the availability and quality of care? Are the benefits worth the investment?
  • How is the National Family Caregiver Support Program affecting quality of life for caregivers? Has your state adopted the option for seniors to “hire” and pay family caregivers for their time? What are the requirements for this program and how accessible is it to seniors and their families?

Have participants follow up their research by interviewing caregivers in their own communities to better understand the day-to-day joys, challenges and practicalities of caring for aging family members. Have participants use their interviews and research to develop their own tips for family caregivers in the style of this guide from the Caregiver Action Network:

Additional Resources:

Eldercare Locator
A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging connects users with services for older adults and their families.

Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)
Services include assessment, care planning, direct care skills, wellness programs, respite services and legal/financial consultation vouchers.

National Family Caregiver Support Program
Provides grants to states and territories to fund various supports that help family and informal caregivers care for older adults in their homes for as long as possible.

USA.GOV: Caregiver Support
A source of tips and information to help care for loved ones with special medical needs, including programs for family members of veterans and people with disabilities to get paid to provide care.

About the authors

Allison Milewski

Allison Milewski has developed media education resources for a range of award-winning filmmakers and national media organizations, including PBS LearningMedia, Independent Television Services (ITVS), Latino Public Broadcasting, HBO Documentaries, and Tribeca Film Institute. She is also the founder of the international media education program,