As your parents or other loved ones get older, you may at some point need to provide support to them as a caregiver. Whether this care is a little lighter or very hands-on, it can be a difficult transition to make no matter what. As you prepare for this new responsibility, there are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure your shift to caregiver is as smooth as possible.

Set Up a Structure

It can be overwhelming to suddenly need to care for an elderly loved one, or to become their main resource of support if you were less involved previously. Before throwing yourself into a whole new situation that may involve a lot of added responsibility, it can be helpful to sit down with your loved one and talk through their needs, and what you’re able to provide as their caregiver. Making sure you can meet each other in the middle can help facilitate the best possible caregiving situation for you and them.

It may also help to talk to family and friends you know who may also provide some level of caregiving to see how they manage from day to day. Even discussing with a local doctor or nurse in your area—better yet, someone with an understanding of your loved one’s health needs—may also provide valuable advice to structuring your caregiving routine.

Planning ahead is key to managing your new responsibilities as a caregiver, but it’s important to also prepare for things to change, especially if the health needs of your loved one are more acute.

Stay Updated on Their Needs

Speaking of, making sure you understand your loved one’s health needs is paramount to preparing for your caregiving duties. Not only will you be more mentally prepared for any situations that may arise along your journey as caregiver, but you can also make plans for future care sooner rather than later. If you know your loved one’s health condition will most likely worsen over time, for instance, you can start now in making sure to keep family and friends who may need to become more involved in the future aware of what’s going on now and moving forward. This way, it will be easier for them to step in and help with any increased needs in the caregiving process.

Staying updated will also help you feel more financially secure. Again, if your elderly loved one has a health condition that may worsen, you can start arranging a financial plan to support them in the future, when they may need in-home assistance or full-time nursing arrangements. You can also make sure a strong support network of family and friends is in place to help you and your loved one meet any increased financial needs.

Seek Help as Needed

A key theme to planning for caregiving is to make sure to seek the help and support you need early and as often as you need it throughout the process. While caregiving can be a rewarding experience, bringing you closer to your loved one and helping make sure they are well taken care of, it can also be physically and emotionally stressful. It’s critical to keep your own health needs in mind for when you become a caregiver. Be sure to create your own support network of people you can rely on to help you with additional care needs, or even for when you need the occasional break! The most important rule with caregiving is to make sure that both the needs of your loved one and your own are equally important and taken care of!