Keeping Caregiving Safe

What if I'm sick? Who will take care of my care recipient?

What if I need to help my daughter and her new baby? Who will take care of my care recipient?

What if I need to go back to work? Who will take care of my care recipient?

Donna Webb, who one of the family caregivers who blogs on, recently faced the reality of the What if? questions. A pinched nerve recently sidelined her and affected the care she could provide her mom. Now that she's back on her feet, she's looking to create her back-up plan so she's ready just in case she faces a next time.

Creating a contingency plan can sound like a daunting task. Let's break it down.

Research is your first step. If you haven't called local social services agencies and services providers (including churches and synagogues) in more than one year, then start by checking with them. Funding changes, personnel changes, goals and missions change. An agency that couldn't help in the past now may have a program that will help you.

Remember: Your goal is to gather as much information as possible. If you learn about a program that you don't think your care recipient will like wipe the thought from your head! Gather information about all program's costs, availability, qualifications, contact person. The program may not be appropriate now,but may very well be the answers to your prayers down the road.

Next, check with family and friends. In an emergency, what kind of help can they offer? Who will be the second contact in case of an emergency?

Once you've researched all available options in the community (home health agencies, adult day services, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, Meals on Wheels, volunteer programs, personal emergency responses, phone check-in services, etc.), and with your family and friends, then make a list. Include agency name, program name, program description, program details (cost, availability, etc.), and agency phone number. You may also want to jot down appropriate times for these services to be used. For instance, short-term stays in nursing homes could be used when you need to take a week off.

One you've created your back-up options, then solidify your safety net, the net that catches when something falls. Consider:

Financial safety net
Who manages the finances? Who's the back-up? And, who is the check who makes sure finances are in good order?

Day-to-day caregiving
Who can back you up? Who can step in if you are sick? Your back-up can be family, friends, home care workers, adult day centers, Meals on Wheels, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or a combination. Does your back-up have the necessary knowledge and training to back you up? And, whats your back-up for your back-up?

As your care recipient declines, how will you compensate for the losses? When driving, meal preparation, housekeeping and other responsibilities can no
longer be completed? When caregiving needs intensify? Which services, family members, providers and other options can compensate?

You're out of commission
The flu, unexpected responsibilities, or a sore back makes caregiving that much more difficult. What gadgets and equipment can help until you feel better?

As a family caregiver, you know that the world can change without warning. You don't want to be caught off guard and without options. Your contingency plan and safety net ensure the well-being of you and your care recipient just in case What if? really happens.