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Caregiving Resources

Information for family caregivers and those caring for aging or chronically ill adults

How Do We Know When it's Time to Help?

Most people take care of others throughout their lives, in ways big and small, on occasion or habitually. But the decision to look for a regular caregiver, or to become a caregiver for another adult on an ongoing basis, is a big deal.

Sometimes that decision follows a catastrophic event - a new diagnosis, or an accident . Sometimes we reach out to ask for help ourselves.

With older adults. more often it grows slowly, with the increasing realization that "it's time". There are some ways to check to see if someone needs help, and some "tells" or red flags that indicate it's time to step in to assist our elders, as this article explains:

Change is almost never easy, and older adults resist caregiving (or caregivers) for many different reasons. These resources may help sort out reasonable fears from unreasonable ones, or help with communicating different points of view, or help to cope with anger, anxiety, or resistance.

Caregiving 101

However it happens, here's some useful advice and things to think about, as you ponder being a caregiver for a family member, friend or loved one:

Question: What does a caregiver (or care partner) do?

Answer: whatever is needed, and whatever they can.

It could be help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like: getting in and out of beds or chairs; getting dressed; getting to and from the toilet; bathing or showering; eating; dealing with incontinence. (Those are the most common ADLs that caregivers help with, according to the AARP's 2020 report.) Or they could help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) like: transportation; grocery (or other) shopping; housework; preparing meals; managing finances; giving medicines, pills, or injections; arranging outside services.

Many parts of a caregiver's job can go un-remarked, which is why the Atlas of Caregiving project documents the wide range of activities caregivers engage in. The Atlas' list of various aspects of caregiving may help you think about (and arrange for) care now, and anticipate future needs. While everyone's experience is different, it may be also useful to read about them, to see what you have in common. 

Helping to manage your loved one's medications, and watching for possible drug reactions, is often an important part of caregiving.


When thinking about what caregivers do, we tend to focus on health concerns and activities of daily living. But many people also need help with managing their finances - and that could be a major part of a caregiver's duties.


Caregiving isn't always "from now until the end". It can be short-term, when recovering from an injury or illness:


Caregiving is universal, as these videos in several languages, made for the Minneapolis Twin Cities region, explain.

Caregiver Tutorials

The Family Caregiver Alliance has many videos on key caregiver skills (managing medications, nutrition, home safety, hygiene, transfer skills, self-care) organized into playlists. 

Here's one video from that series, about keeping track of medications:

Checklists, tip sheets, and How-Tos are also invaluable. Besides these links, you might want to look at the checklists included in the other tabs for this guide.

Caregiving has its own jargon, with sometimes-confusing terminology. AARP's glossary gives useful definitions:

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