Getting Started as a Caregiver

     Getting Started as a Caregiver – Open Communication

     The Caregiver Fundamentals page, began your discovery of the many influences on the life of a caregiver. If you left that page feeling overwhelmed, take heart, you don’t have to become an expert overnight. Keep reading and I’ll help you learn more about the best way for Getting Started as a Caregiver

     Sometimes the way a caregiver gets started in their role is influenced by how they became a caregiver in the first place (see How You Become a Caregiver Matters). If your pathway to caregiving came through a progressive illness rather than through a crisis, then you may have the opportunity to organize your transition into the role over a space of time.  If it came about through a crisis, them you deal with it in the here and now. Either way, follow along as I outline recommendations for getting adjusted. 

family discussing shared tasks for caregiving responsibilities

 Open Discussion 

    My first recommendation is to focus on communication as the top priority, especially if multiple people are involved. If the caregiver is a spouse or parent of a young child, it might not be as critical. However, if the caregiver is a sibling or relative/significant other/friend of the one receiving care, I strongly recommend clarifying expectations upfront. 

Put Decisions in Writing   

      In a case where more than one person might have “authority” to make decisions or changes that affect others, I recommend getting a written care agreement promptly, plus a general or durable power of attorney, and a medical decision-maker designation completed early in the relationship. Doing so can prevent misunderstandings before they occur.

     In addition, if you plan to apply for Medicaid later, a care agreement is helpful to show that you did not violate the spend-down rules for Medicaid eligibility. The agreement is especially useful if the caregiver receives pay for services provided. 

Getting Started As a Caregiver - Responsibility  

How Do You Get Started in Determining  Your Areas of Responsibility

     After you distribute tasks to others, look at what is left over to determine what makes sense to be a caregiver duty and what doesn’t.  Unfortunately, if you are the head of the house and a caregiver, you may not be able to give up much.  You may have some non-essential tasks that you can set aside that rarely get done anyway. 

Caregiver with too much to do and feeling overwhelmed

     On the other hand, if you’re working as a family member caregiver providing care to another family member, it’s essential to clarify and establish your duties.

     If you’re trying to determine the tasks that take up your time, consider writing down everything you do to get an idea of your activities.  

Make a List

      Organize the list you make in the way that makes the most sense to you.   For example:

  • Task 
  • How often performed?
  • Length of time required?
Essential or Non-Essential

Sort your list into two groups labeled essesntial and non-essential.  When you’re trying to decide if something is essential, imagine what might happen if you  didn’t do it.  


    As you go through the list, ask the following questions:

  • What would happen if I didn’t do this task?
  • Is there anyone else who could do this for me?
  • Could I afford to pay someone else to do this for me?
  • Can this be combined with something else to make the two things easier together?
  • Do I have to do the task as often as I was doing it, the way I was doing it, is there a better way?
Say Goodbye to Non-Essential   

      Now get rid of all non-essential tasks. For the other things on the list, ask yourself the following questions to see if you can eliminate anything else.


     Items that you were able to items as tasks you could give away or stop doing are non-essential for you.  Cross them off your list and give them away. 


Decide What Will Become Your Task List

     After you go through all these questions, you have a good idea of what you need to do; therefore, you now have a task list. 

With a task list, you can create a care agreement.

Getting Started - Family Meeting

Getting Started with Who Does What

     Many caregivers become exhausted because they fail to ask for help. Whether you are the spouse, parent, or sibling, calling a family conference is a good idea.

     Create a task list that needs completion but which does not require the caregiver to perform.  Present your workload to those present and the difficulty you have with managing all of it alone.

     Ask what each of them can contribute to lightening your load.  Hopefully, peer pressure will encourage everyone to chip in and take some tasks away from your “to-do” list with everyone present.  You might not lose all the jobs, but anything you can reduce from your list is a plus. 

Sample task List

  • Assisting with daily physical care-bathing, toileting, oral hygiene, feeding, hair care, nail care, grooming, dressing
  • Transportation– going to doctor’s appointments, senior center, rehabilitation facility, grocery store, retail store, bank, running errands, etc.
  • Wellness Officer and Provider of medical care and treatments- wound care, nebulizer treatments, changing dressings, medication administration, monitoring oxygen, tracking the location of wandering individuals, scheduling medical appointments, monitoring symptoms, tracking progress, etc.
  • Financial management – paying bills, calling bill collectors, talking to insurance companies, accounting offices, researching errors, etc.
  • Food manager/cook – Plan menus, buy food, prepare food, serve it, feed it, clean up afterward, and store it.
  • Fitness Trainer – determine what type of exercise they need and help them obtain it (daily).
  • Building and Equipment – Complete house, car, and equipment repair and maintenance responsibilities.
  • Advocate and legal authority – respond to all inquiries from legal offices, business offices, insurance companies, and others regarding legal matters.

Caregiver researching a billing problem over the internet

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