How to Create a Caregiving Plan
May 30, 2023

There are approximately 53 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, and their caregiving responsibilities often start unexpectedly. While it is difficult for anyone to think about illness, old age, or accidents that can change life circumstances dramatically, it pays to prepare.   

Becoming a caregiver overnight can leave people feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, crashing toward burnout and exhaustion. It is impossible to predict the specifics of every caregiving scenario, but organizing a plan before it is needed is still a great idea. 

For instance, many people wish to receive care in their homes, as discussed in the article, Aging in Place: Growing Older at Home, published by The National Institute on Aging. Preparing a plan can let the care recipient decide on other important issues, such as what will happen to their finances, their memorial celebration wishes, choosing close friends and family members they want to be involved in their care, including what tasks each person should carry out - for example personal care, shopping, running errands, or managing money.


Everything you need to include in a caregiving plan 

When you gather with the care recipient, it is time to discuss wishes, outline responsibilities, assess resources, and organize medical documents. A plan will make an intense process a bit easier to navigate. A key benefit of making a caregiving plan ahead of time is it allows the person receiving care to have the loudest voice on what happens and contribute to discussions. Talk to the patient about the level of care they think will be required.

The conversation can be difficult, with everyone having personal views on caregiving and end-of-life plans. Ensure everyone comes together to prioritize the wishes of the care recipient in the discussion. Many books on caregiving can provide a list of questions you can use to start these difficult discussions. A free online resource created by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement helps people approach the topic of caregiving and wishes for end-of-life care. 


Everyday caregiving needs

A detailed caregiving plan should list the daily needs of the care recipient and designate someone to handle them once a loved one falls ill. It can include a list of everyone who wants to help, including family members, close friends, health professionals, and community workers. There are several everyday tasks that the care recipient will need help with, and this can intensify as their condition evolves. Here are examples of daily tasks to assign in your plan: 


  • Daily visits to help the care recipient socialize and check in on their well-being 
  • Administering medications 
  • Collecting prescriptions from the pharmacy 
  • Running errands 
  • Cleaning the home or cooking meals
  • Helping with personal care 
  • Managing bills and payments 
  • Driving to appointments 
  • Ensuring home safety and installing safety measures 


Organize legal issues

Every caregiving plan should include a few legal documents. The documents will empower the care recipient to make choices for themself and help caregivers look after their affairs when the time comes. Here are a few legal issues to arrange:


  • Designate a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions when the care recipient is unable.


  • Create an advanced directive. This legal document allows the care recipient to share their wishes for treatment with family, doctors, and caregivers should they become unable to make or communicate decisions. It can indicate the level of care wanted in a medical emergency, for example, resuscitate or do not resuscitate. List the treatments refused in the advance directive, and note it is possible to refuse treatment in some situations but not others. 


  • Nominate someone as power of attorney so they can act on your behalf in financial and legal issues. 


  • Draft a last will and testament that outlines how to allocate money, assets, intellectual property, and belongings.


  • A legal care contract that describes caregiver responsibilities and any compensation is also worth creating, even for family members. This can help minimize disputes about money and make the process easier for everyone involved and reduce any tax issues that arise later. 

  • It is worth checking if the care recipient or caregiver has any overlooked medical entitlements or employee benefits. This could uncover insurance coverage for therapy appointments and family medical leave to focus on caregiving.

The care recipient may want the same person to handle these tasks or select individuals to look after each legal issue. 


Create caregiving documentation  

Once you have covered the topics above, you can compile the results into a master document. This could be a ring-binder folder kept somewhere secure but accessible. Create documentation for your caregiving plan for everyone involved in providing care. To summarize, the documentation should include the following:


  • Contact information for the caregiving team
  • A list of assigned tasks 
  • A caregiving schedule
  • A list of medications and instructions
  • Contact information for healthcare providers
  • Other important medical information
  • Legal documents and instructions 
  • Instructions for emergencies


This information could be shared digitally with the caregiving team through a secure cloud-based file-sharing service such as Google Drive or Microsoft One Cloud. Consider the privacy of the care recipient and their personal information and get their consent to share the information with others in the caregiving team. 


Focus on goals 

Caregiving can be stressful and emotionally challenging for family members. The planning steps detailed above focus on practical issues, but it is vital to create goals and focus on emotional well-being too. 

Take some time to think about the things the care recipient enjoys. What hobbies do they have? Do they enjoy social activities or going to a church group? Can you arrange to drive them to events if they are well enough to attend? 

Caregivers also need to create a goal to look after their health and well-being throughout the journey. This can include time off from caregiving responsibilities, joining a caregivers support group, or therapy such as CBT. 

Include these factors when creating the caregiving plan. Share duties so everyone gets the support they need for the highest possible level of health.

Family First members going through caregiving challenges can access individualized support on caregiving plans and strategy, access white glove services and clinical support, plus utilize resources that help them look after their health while providing the best support to the care recipient.