Before you Become a Caregiver 18 Questions to Ask Yourself

important caregiver questions

So, the time has come. Your aging parent needs more care than they can provide for themselves. Are you the right person to fill that need? 

Of course, you may say. You are their child. 

Taking on the role of care provider to a family member isn't a decision to be taken lightly. There may a number of reasons why you can't or shouldn't take on the responsibility. On the other hand, all signs may indicate that you are the perfect person to step up to the plate. 

But before you say yes or no without a minute's thought, take time to answer these questions, in all honesty, to yourself...

1. Is Aging at Home Enough for My Loved One? 

Although aging in place, or with family caregivers, is widely accepted as "always more ideal" than a nursing home or assisted living facility, you have to decide the answer for this question based on what you TRULY know about your elderly parent. 

  • Do they need minimal assistance, or full-time supervision?
  • Do they have any advanced medical needs that could be better monitored by 24 hour professionals? 
  • Do they need a safer environment than you can offer? 
  • Can you offer equal or better care than a facility? 

2. Am I Ready for the Extra Responsibility? 

Think of looking at an adorable puppy up for adoption. Would you take him home if you knew you would have only a few minutes a day to spend with him? 

The elderly need more than just food and a place to sleep, too. 

Caregiving responsibilities can add up over the years, so you need to honestly assess whether or not you can attend to them all. Because this could be long-term, you may have to delay other plans you might have been making, such as moving to a smaller home or travelling. 


3. Do I Really Have Enough Time? 

We are taught that we aren't a successful person until we can juggle dozens of tasks in one day.  But can you really wedge caregiving into your already-full schedule? 

Can you still provide awesome care to your parent and fulfill your other important obligations in life? You may need to sit down and make a list of all the things that use your time, and start crossing off those that are lowest priority.  

4. Am I Able to Be Flexible and Spontaneous? 

Are you the type of person who is set in your ways? Do you keep to a rigid schedule, maintain a high degree of personal standards, and expect others to follow your lead? 

In caregiving, you may have to be willing to relax those ideals somewhat, especially if you are caring for an elderly parent with dementia. Things that were a solid rule in your home before, like dedicated bedtimes, when and where meals are eaten, and daily hygiene routines can become topsy-turvy due to unexpected health issues or behaviors. 

You will also have to follow your loved one's lead quite often. 

5. Am I Physically Able? 

You have to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have any health complications? Anything, minor or major, that affects you will also affect your loved one. 

Depending on the care needs of your loved one, you may have to measure whether or not you are physically strong enough to be a caregiver. Can you safely lift another person?  

For those who already suffering from poor health or injuries, the stress of caregiving could cause pre-existing conditions to worsen, especially since caregivers often lapse in their own self care. 

6. Am I Prepared to Learn and Grow? 

To be blunt, if you don't have much experience with the elderly, or the medical field, then you will have to learn a lot. You may spend hours researching terms, watching for signs and symptoms, arguing with doctors, and performing tasks you never thought you would be doing for another adult. 

You will see gross stuff. Are you ready to learn about it, handle it, and move on?

7. Is My Financial Situation Solid Enough? 

Caregiving can be expensive. There are things you may need that won't be covered by insurance. You will need to know your elderly loved one's financial status before you commit, in order to make long-term plans. 

Over the years you may have to consider these costs: 

  • Medical equipment
  • Co-pays
  • Hiring someone to help with certain tasks
  • Refitting your house (or even remodeling) to make it safer
  • Essentials such as food, clothing, toiletries
  • A wheelchair friendly vehicle

Also consider whether or not you might have to quit your job or retire early to provide more thorough one-on-one care. Can you afford to do that right now? 

Don't plan what you think you might be able to do in X many years, consider what you can afford at present. Because you may have years ahead of you before you need to even consider quitting. Or you may have to do so years earlier than you expected. There is no way to know for certain. 

8. Will My Employer or My Spouse's Employer Be Understanding? 

Do you have that great boss that will let you leave work for emergencies, or take a day off if your loved one gets ill? Will they work with you if you can't find someone to stay with mom or dad for the day? 

What about your spouses employer? Can your partner take off at a moment's notice to help you if something happens, or just to cover an errand for you if you are suddenly unable to leave the house? 

Hopefully, your boss and your co-workers are understanding and supportive of your efforts. 

9. How Will This Impact My Family? 

If you have a spouse and children living in your home, how will caregiving affect them? Are your children old enough to understand the situation and discuss their feelings, or will they simply resent having to share you? Will you have enough time to spend with your kids and spouse? 

How does your spouse feel about taking in your parent? Are they willing to help you? 

Bringing another person into the home, especially one that needs extra care, can create a shift in household responsibilities. You may have to depend on your family to take over many of your tasks, but you have to consider too whether or not these new responsibilities are within their scope and not adding too much pressure. 

 10. Will I Get Support From Other Relatives? 

If you have siblings, there may be a question of who becomes the primary family caregiver to your aging parent. More often though, one person will shoulder this burden, and receive little support from their relatives. 

As well as support, there has to be some sort of agreement made about long-term care. For example, you may wish to do so in your own home, while your brother or sister feels that your parent should be in a care facility. 

Remember, how well you and your relatives agree will impact your parent. 

11. Would My Parent Be Happier with Me, or With Someone Else?

This can be a painful question to ask yourself. If you and your parent have never had a positive relationship, the situation may only get worse if you step into the role of caregiver. 

It might not also be you personally. Your parent may not get along with your spouse, may not agree with your lifestyle, may not enjoy the way you manage your household rules, or may simply not like the geographical location of your home. (a busy street, a colder climate, etc.)

If there is a choice between willing caregivers, then you have to decide what is right for your parent's physical and emotional well-being. 

12. Do I Have Resources for External Support Available? 

Do you live in an area where you have access to support groups? Will you be able to take advantage of online support forums if not? 

Does your community have helpful programs in place for caregivers or the elderly? Will you be able to access the right type of doctor's and specialists your loved one may need? 

This can be a distinct problem for those in small towns and rural areas, where specialized services for the elderly are non-existent or scarce. 

13. Is Aging at Home Truly What My Aging Parent Wants? 

Then again, your parent may not wish to be at home at all. They may take more comfort in the idea of a care facility. This can be for many reasons: 

  • They may prefer being cared for by medical professionals (especially if they have many needs)
  • They may not wish to depend on their family
  • They may like the idea of the security of facilities that that offer high security
  • They may prefer a more social atmosphere of assisted living or a retirement community
  • They may already have friends or loved ones in a particular facility
  • They wish to remain in their home with full or part-time caregivers. 

14. Do I Have a Back-up Plan? 

You may be 100% certain that you will never move your elderly parent into a nursing facility or assisted living community, but you need to research the options in your area anyhow. If, for some reason (a personal injury, for example) you were unable to continue caring for your loved one, it would be more convenient to know ahead of time what these facilities offer than to try to find out last minute.

Other things to ask, does your community offer temporary services? Do they have reputable respite care for the elderly? How about home health, hospice, etc?

As well as locating all these services, you need to discuss with your family what will happen if you can't continue care. Would care pass to another sibling? Would your spouse and/or children take over care?

Do you know if your parent has a preference for what happens to them if you cannot care for them? 

15. Am I Willing to Prepare My Home to be Elder Friendly?

What if your aging parent has special needs? You may have to consider installing safety rails, removing unsafe decor items, installing a wheelchair ramp, rearranging furnishings, and more. 

Preparing your home for an elder can be as easy as putting a grab bar in the shower, or it can be as complicated as having to remodel parts of your home to allow for wheelchair access. 

16. Am I Read to Accept The Changes? 

Caregiving has a huge emotional impact on your life. But the change that will be hardest to accept will be watching your parent become more frail and dependent on you as time passes. 

In cases of dementia, you have to be ready to accept that your parent will slowly disappear over the months and years, possibly changing to a complete stranger. Other conditions, such as Parkinson's may leave your once strong parent weak and unable to care for themselves at all. 

You have to be mentally prepared to reverse roles with your parent, without blaming them or yourself for what is occurring. 

17. Am I Prepared to Face End of Life Care? 

The hardest part of caregiving is that no matter how well you play the game, in the end you lose something that is most dear. As that time approaches, you may have to relinquish sole care, no matter how excellent you are, and bring in professional care aides and hospice nurses. 

At that time when you are facing the worst, and want to spend every moment with your loved one, you will be expected to continue with your everyday activities. You will also have to notify other relatives, and begin arrangements for a funeral. 

18. Am I Prepared to Face Death?

Sometimes the end comes without warning. When you are the family caregiver, then you are the one who may discover that your loved one has passed away in their sleep. 

No one wants to think about that possibility, but before you ever begin caregiving, you must ask yourself if this is something you could handle, even if you were alone at the time. 

Have You Weighed the Pros and Cons of Family Caregiving Yet? 

The questions in this post are not meant to deter you from choosing to become a caregiver to a loved one. They are meant to help you really think about how deeply it can impact not just your life, but the lives of everyone involved. 

Caring for an aging relative at home will probably be the best option for them in many cases. But you still need to be prepared. 

Just make sure that you have discussed it thoroughly, weighed your pros and cons, checked into your finances, made a few back-up plans and located a few people to help support you in your caregiving journey. 

Then, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

Am I ready for this?