Breaking it down to the basics, a caregiver is someone who takes care of others. The term is usually not used for professionals, but instead is used to describe family members who take care of each other. You might find yourself in the role of a caregiver for any number of reasons. Perhaps you have a family member who has become disabled following an accident or injury, or has developed a debilitating disease. Maybe you’ve had to step in as caregiver for an aging parent. Whatever the reason, the role can be difficult and frustrating. With careful planning, the job of caregiver can go much smoother for everyone.
Checklists that cover the various aspects of your role as a caregiver will help you in many ways. They can help you assess situations so you can plan for the future. An assessment checklist can include questions like: Does my family member need help getting dressed? Is she able to shop for and prepare her own food? Can she take care of daily household chores easily? Is she able to keep up and pay her bills on time? These and other questions about the person’s health and day-to-day activities will help lay the groundwork for knowing what level of care you need to provide and give you fodder for the rest of your lists.
The next checklist you need is one that outlines your responsibilities as the caregiver. This list is one you’ll want to share with other family members so that everyone is on the same page. The responsibilities checklist includes such things as which other members of the family will be able to help the caregiver and how much will they be helping. You need to know in what specific ways they will help. You also need to meet the doctors to decide which family member is going to speak for your loved one at each doctor's office. Learn all you can about the patient’s medical condition and help other family members understand the condition so they can pick up the slack when you need a break. The responsibilities checklist designates different people for different duties.
This is one checklist you should get your loved one to do with you, if possible. This list contains the information you and other family members will need in the event of your loved one’s death. This list should include her financial information, including accounts she holds and all the necessary related information, such as her social security number, medical insurance information, the location and status of her will, and the status of any debts or liens. Also, you need her to tell you about any deeds or titles she holds. If you can’t get this information from the patient, you’ll need to bring in an attorney or go through her files to find all necessary paperwork.
You won’t be a very effective caregiver if you let yourself go, so make a checklist for your own health. Include a list of activities you plan to do to maintain your mental and physical health. Check off the healthy meals you make for yourself. Set up an exercise schedule and times when you will socialize with friends. Keep track of your stress levels, list your hobbies and keep up with your own doctor appointments. Set up a checklist of your needs and make it a priority to refer to this checklist on a regular basis.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."