What Happens When a Caregiver Passes Away Before a Care Recipient

When a caregiver is assisting a senior loved one, as time passes, the care recipient is apt to pass on while assistance is being provided. A less common occurrence is when a caregiver passes on before a care recipient.

Passing of Spousal Caregivers

In the United States today, most caregivers are family members. More often than not, family members that provide care to seniors are spouses or adult children. One frequently cited research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that spousal caregivers experiencing caregiver strain had mortality risks that were 63 percent higher than non-caregivers. This is a truly significant mortality risk increase.

Of course, the possibility does exist that an adult child caregiver might pass away before a senior parent, and the prospect of a spouse dying is more significant. Therefore, it is particularly important for a spouse providing caregiving assistance to another spouse to be as proactive as possible and be prepared for the potential of a caregiving passing.

Maintain an Up-To-Date Care Plan

One step that is needed to ensure appropriate continuity if a caregiver passes before a care recipient is the creation of a care plan. In point of fact, when it comes to caregiving, a care plan should always be prepared and maintained. This is the case even if a caregiver is a family member like a spouse or adult child of a senior.

A care plan should outline the specific tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis, as well as the duties that can be carried out as needed. It is also important to designate someone as the primary caregiver so that there is someone who can be responsible for overseeing the care plan and ensuring that all necessary tasks are completed. If possible, it is also helpful to have a backup caregiver in case the primary caregiver is unavailable. A backup caregiver will be discussed in greater detail in a moment.

The care plan must be updated with regularity. It is vital that a care plan be reviewed and modified as necessary. At a minimum, a care plan should be reviewed to ensure it is current every couple of months. Finally, it is important to communicate with all members of the care team regularly so that everyone is aware of any changes or updates to the care plan.

A senior’s current care plan and any contingency plans for the future must be shared with trustworthy family members and made official using the proper legal tools. This will ensure the whole family is as prepared as possible for whatever may lie ahead. Should the worst happen, this will at least help to eliminate some unnecessary stress and uncertainty at an already very difficult time.

Designate a Backup Caregiver

A key element of planning for the possibility that a caregiver might pass away before a care recipient is to designate an individual to be listed as a backup caregiver. Designating or identifying a backup caregiver requires consideration of factors that are identified when selecting a primary caregiver in the first instance.

Broadly speaking, a caregiver needs to possess qualities that include patience, empathy, and strength. They must be able to handle stress and be able to care for others. A caregiver needs to have a kind heart and be able to put the need of others before their own, according to John Hopkins School of Medicine.

Examples of the skills needed for a backup caregiver include:

  • Good bedside manner
  • Capable of handling difficult situations
  • Providing basic care and support, such as bathing, feeding, and dressing patients
  • Administering medication and other treatments
  • Recording patient information
  • Communicating with patients and families
  • Handling medical devices and equipment

Professional In-Home Care Aide as Backup Caregiver

Oftentimes, there are significant reasons why a particular family member was initially selected as the caregiver for an aging parent or other senior loved one. For example, other family members might be unavailable for what might be a host of different reasons. Thus, when it comes to the need to identify someone to serve as a backup caregiver, another family member might prove to be something other than what fairly might be called an ideal selection. This conclusion is not meant to denigrate other family members. Rather, it is merely intended to recognize reality and prevent reliance on an alternate course of action and backup caregiver that might not practically exist.

For these reasons, identifying in advance an in-home care service oftentimes can be the best course of action to take when working to identify a backup caregiver for an aging parent or another beloved senior.

When it comes to finding a potential professional in-home care aide to be identified as a potential backup caregiver if the original person providing caregiving assistance passes away, there are a number of things to look for that, including:

  • Make certain an in-home aide or in-home care services have experience in providing assistance to seniors. They should have knowledge of the common needs of seniors s and how to provide appropriate assistance.
  • An in-home care aide should be patient and compassionate. They should be able to handle difficult situations calmly and with empathy.
  • An in-home care aide should be reliable. They should be able to arrive on time and complete shifts as scheduled.
  • An in-home care aide should be respectful of your loved one’s privacy and independence. Instead, an in-home care aide should be able to work collaboratively with family members to provide needed support.

When looking for a professional in-home care aide, these are the qualities you should look for. By choosing an aide who possesses these qualities, you can rest assured that your loved one is in good hands.

Assisted Living as Backup to Caregiver

Finally, another alternative to consider as a backup should an existing caregiver die before a care recipient is in assisted living. If you are like some family caregivers and relatives of a person in need of caregiving assistance, you may not fully understand what assisted living is all about. According to Harvard Medical School, assisted living is defined as:

There is no single, universally accepted definition of assisted living or of an assisted living community or facility. The National Institute on Aging offers a general description of assisted living. According to the National Institute on Aging, assisted living can be largely defined as a type of senior living that provides housing and certain support services for older adults who need some level of assistance with activities of daily living.

Assisted living facilities come in a range of shapes and sizes. Assisted living communities also can vary significantly in terms of the services they offer. Typically, they offer residents a combination of private apartments or rooms, shared common areas, and support services that include:

  • Meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Transportation
  • Personal care

When it comes to identifying an assisted living community as a caregiver backup option, keep in mind that many seniors would find this type of arrangement to be an appealing alternative for them. For many seniors, assisted living is an appealing option because it allows them to live relatively independently while still receiving some level of support as needed. The services provided by an assisted living community for an older family member can be adapted over time as the needs of a resident change.