Get answers to common questions and explore helpful checklists that'll make it easier for you to provide care.
There’s no “legal” or “official” way someone becomes a caregiver. There are, of course, medical professionals who provide care. But in the majority of circumstances, you become a caregiver simply by choosing to care for a loved one or a friend who needs care.
A caregiver supports the care receiver holistically throughout their care journey by understanding their condition, symptoms, medication, lifestyle and emotions and making their life comfortable accordingly. You’ll also be expected to help them make and manage their medical appointments, ensure that they pay their bills (sometimes supporting them financially, depending on your relationship with them), help them remember things, and (depending on circumstances) help them with legal processes like preparing a will. Please check out our introduction to caregiving for a complete picture of your responsibilities as a caregiver, as well as our guide to the 9 principles of caregiving.
Understand the medical condition of the care receiver. Spend some time with them to assess their living conditions, level of mobility, emotional state etc. Seek assistance in the form of financial support or emotional support. Make changes to your schedules (e.g. working hours) to adapt to your new responsibilities as a caregiver.
As much as possible! Well, you probably won’t know as much as the medical professionals (unless you’re a medical professional yourself) but you need to know the symptoms of the condition, the specific ways in which it will limit their daily life, what they will be able to do and not be able to do, the specific kinds of support you need to provide, and the warning signs of emergencies you need to look out for. Learn to assess the care receiver’s vital signs, physically observable changes to their body, changes to their motion or excretion habits, etc. Here’s more information about assessing these.
Patience: Being a caregiver is often frustrating. Hang in there. Don’t lose your temper.
Dependability: The care receiver needs to be able to count on you.
Attentiveness: Ensure that you pay attention to the care receiver’s needs even if they are not good at expressing themselves.
Empathy: Put yourself in the care receiver’s shoes to understand what they are going through and respond accordingly.
Please check out our guides to the expected attitude of a caregiver and the communication skills required in a caregiver.
Be aware of the warning signs of an emergency or a sudden deterioration (e.g. stroke, cardiac arrest) and the first aid procedures needed. Get the full picture of these procedures from doctors before you start providing care. If an emergency occurs, call 995 for emergency medical support immediately. Provide first aid until medical support arrives. Here’s more information about providing first aid in an emergency.
An elderly care receiver needs special care as all parts of their body from their bones to their eyes and ears experience physical changes due to advanced age. This can lead to deteriorating eyesight, hearing, mobility etc. as well as increased likelihood of falls and other injuries. They are also prone to mental health issues such as loneliness. Regardless of what their issues are, it’s a good idea to learn to measure their vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, breathing and body temperature.
Make simple home renovations such as grab bars and anti-slip mats in the shower to prevent slippage, railings on staircases to prevent falls, handles on doors that are easy to use, ramps next to beds to make it easier to get into and out of the bed, etc. Keep the home well-stocked with hand sanitizers, soaps, shower creams and shampoos and encourage frequent bathing and handwashing. Here’s more information about ensuring a safe living environment for care receivers.
Sure! Help them do activities that are well within their physical and mental capabilities. Make it easier for them to make friends and participate in social activities while providing any support they need in terms of mobility, transport, equipment and finances. Here’s more information about facilitating social interaction of care receivers.
Depending on the disability, many everyday activities we take for granted can become an ordeal for a disabled care receiver. They could include getting into and out of bed, dressing, grooming, shaving, feeding or eating related activities, moving within their living environment, and various activities in the toilet such as bathing, brushing teeth and excretion. There’s really no one-size-fits-all and you need to adapt to the unique needs of each care receiver.
Disability can limit the care receiver’s movements in a specific way which requires specific solutions. Sometimes, this takes the form of wheelchairs or walking aids such as canes, walkers and rollers. Sometimes, it’s more about requiring your physical support for daily activities such as walking and climbing stairs. Ask medical professionals what works best for this care receiver. Also figure things out by discussing with the care receiver themselves.
Each injury leads to specific changes to lifestyle and habits. This could be as simple as ensuring that the care receiver leans to one side while getting out of bed to avoid aggravating an injury in one hand. Or it could be a bigger lifestyle change like starting some medications, discontinuing other medications, or avoiding certain foods or alcohol. Find out from medical professionals about the specific changes needed. Adapt your care according to day-to-day discoveries pertaining to the new lifestyle of the care receiver.
Wound dressings, bandages and burn dressings are part and parcel of recovery from injury. Learn how to perform these treatment procedures and to adapt everyday activities like bathing and eating according to these procedures (e.g. showering with bandage on). Here’s an introduction to some of the wound treatment procedures you might encounter.
Always help them perform actions within their current capabilities. Don’t let them overexert the recovering body part. Start with small actions, and slowly (as recovery progresses) help them expand the scope of actions they perform. If pain is felt as a result of any motion, stop that motion immediately.
Hearing the news that a loved one is not far from passing on is one of the hardest things in life. Accepting it and yet trying to be strong can be an impossible challenge. The best you can do is to remember that you need to be strong so that the care receiver derives strength from you. Also remember that you have the responsibility to make the last chapter of their life peaceful and comfortable.
Firstly, ensure a safe, comfortable and cheerful physical environment for them. Secondly, support them on various aspects of daily life such as mobility, feeding, dressing, excretion, bathing etc. Thirdly, be there for them emotionally at all times and be a dependable shoulder to lean on.
Calm them down by reassuring them, reciting prayers, playing peaceful music, or anything else you know will calm them down. Physically massage them if that works. Speak to them about enjoyable memories. Try to minimize pain and maximize comfort as much as possible, difficult as it may be.
Remember to take care of yourself as you process this grief. Also help the care receiver’s other loved ones process their grief. Help the deceased care receiver execute their will or other legal, practical or emotional actions they wanted to be performed on their behalf. If the care receiver has left behind anyone financially dependent on them, help them find new ways to financially support themselves.