The expectant or anticipatory caregiver. In this stage, an aging relative’s health is deteriorating at such a rate that you anticipate becoming a caregiver –if not the primary caregiver- in the next 12 to 18 months. The most productive way to spend that time is to do as much research as you possibly can, on care giving in general, and learning about the care recipient in particular. The latter involves getting the patient’s financial and legal affairs in order. You may also look into community services, health programs and start installing safety devices around the house, for example bathroom grab bars.
The freshman caregiver. This period comprehends the first 6 to 18 months of care giving. At this point you may be starting to become aware of the 90% of the iceberg that’s hidden below water level, so to speak. This is also the perfect moment to start asking and accepting help, if you haven’t already. Hire extra hands if you can afford it; if not, take any and all help you can get from family, friends, support groups, even the church. Whatever you do though, try to make the care recipient as integral a part of the decision-making process as possible.
The entrenched caregiver. In this phase, you will have been a caregiver for a very long time, maybe even too long to know for certain or even care. If that’s the case, beware; caregiver stress and burnout may be lurking in the shadows. It may be hard to accept, but if a caregiver lets themselves go, how can they be expected to care for someone else? Consider the possibility of delegating your duties or even stepping down as a caregiver altogether, if only for a while, until you’re ready to get back on the saddle again.