Even if you knew that “someday” you may be responsible for a loved one, you probably assumed you would have time to grow into the role and gradually assume responsibilities over time.  But sometimes life has surprises, and you are thrust suddenly into the role of caregiver.  Going from “business-as-usual” one day into crisis the next can feel scary, stressful, and completely unfamiliar. The “Sudden Caregiver” has no time to prepare for the circumstances, and it can create an urgent situation.


One challenge of being thrust into a caregiving situation can center around the differing ideas of how much and what kind of care is needed.  This is especially true right after the event, and the sudden caregiver needs to think and act in an abbreviated time frame that meets the loved one’s needs – and matches the views of other family members who have less responsibility and more opinions.

Assuming your loved one is able to express his or her opinions, one helpful tool is available from the Conversation Project called “What Matters to Me”.  NOTE: The Conversation Project has many tools available for caregivers that are exceptional – and free.  Using this workbook, you can cover all of the bases and record them in the forms provided.

You Are Not Alone

Most Sudden Caregivers have a group of your loved ones’ family and friends who will want to pitch in to help. Let them. Make a list of what you are NOT good at and ask those who are good at such things for help.  It could be insurance issues or banking or legal documents.  Line up the people who are willing to help and let them do it.  Your role can be limited to being the “director’ while maintaining the primary contact with the patient.

While directing this process your goal is to keep things as normal as possible.  There will be times of crisis and longer periods of normalcy.  Understanding that will be a major step toward keeping an even keel for both the caregiver and the recipient of his or her care.

Take Care of Yourself

All too often, caregivers are so focused on caring for their loved one that they compromise their own health and personal needs.  This can lead to depression and burnout.  It is important to balance caregiving with stress management techniques that protect the caregiver from being overwhelmed. Respite care from a professional home care agency can provide a break.  Perhaps part-time or full-time care, which you can coordinate, is a better answer depending on the situation and available budget.