Making a Caregiving Plan

What is a Caregiving Plan?
How do we make a Caregiving Plan?
What do we need to think about when making a Caregiving Plan?



What is a Caregiving Plan?

A Caregiving Plan lays out what needs to be done to manage the health and well-being of the patient. Unlike the doctor’s “plan of care,” the Caregiving Plan addresses mostly non-medical issues. A Caregiving Plan can help you line up outside help ahead of time, avoid schedule conflicts, improve communication, and reduce caregiver stress and overload.

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How do we make a Caregiving Plan?

To make a Caregiving Plan:

  1. Prepare
    Talk to the patient about the level of care he or she thinks will be needed. The person receiving care should have the biggest voice unless he or she is mentally or physically unable.
  2. Pull your team together
    Make a list of everyone who wants to help, including family members, close friends, health professionals, home care workers and others in the community.
  3. Take stock of the situation
    See the section below on areas you need to think about. Remember that the level of care needed can change. The person with cancer may only need help for brief periods of time like after surgery or chemotherapy. Or, he or she may need constant or almost-constant care. People who are not able to recover will likely need more help as time passes.
  4. Have a family meeting
    Learn more about planning a family meeting.
  5. Make the Plan
    Once you have put together your team, and considered the patient’s needs, it is time to sit down with all the players and put your Caregiving Plan together. The written Plan should include:
    • Contact information for all the patient’s healthcare providers
    • Contact information for the caregiving team
    • A caregiving schedule
    • A list of assigned tasks (for example, “Laundry: Rebecca, Tuesday evenings”)
    • A list of the patient's medications and instructions
    • Other important medical information
    • Instructions for what to do in an emergency
  6. Take action
    Make sure everyone has a copy of the Plan. Then check-in with each other regularly to make sure things are getting done. The care team should assign a point person for each area of care. This doesn’t mean that person has to do everything in that area—just that he or she is responsible for seeing to it that those tasks are done. As things change, be sure to update the Plan.

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What do we need to think about when making a Caregiving Plan?

You’ll want to do look at how the patient is doing in these areas:

Physical health & medication

Is the patient able to see and hear well? Does the person need professional nursing care to manage wounds, drains, catheters or other medical equipment? Does he or she have other diseases that need to be managed like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or emphysema? What medication is the patient taking? Does the patient need assistance taking medication or remembering to take medication?

Mental health

Does the patient have any mental health issues like depression, anxiety or psychosis? Should he or she be seen by a mental healthcare professional?

Everyday activities

Does the patient have problems with incontinence (inability to control urine or bowel movements)? Can he or she move around safely and comfortable? Can he or she dress, bathe, shave, brush teeth, wash hair, use a toilet, and use the phone without assistance? Can the person get help in an emergency, shop, prepare meals, do housework, yard work, and/or drive safely? Does the patient have any eating issues?

Home safety

Are there any hazards in the home? What type of yard and house maintenance is needed? Are there stairs? Can the patient manage these? Are there grab bars in the bathroom? Are these needed? If the person with cancer lives alone, is there an emergency call system in place? (Learn more about home safety.)


Can the patient manage his or her affairs, including paying bills? What is the patient earning and spending? What are his or her income sources (e.g. Social Security, pensions, salary, investments, etc.)? How long will his or her savings last? Are there any other sources of financial assistance? Where are important financial documents—like the car and home title and insurance policies—stored?


What insurance coverage does the patient have? Medicare? Medicaid? Private insurance? Does the patient have long-term care insurance, supplementary insurance or life insurance? Does insurance cover "non-medical" personal care? Has the patient been told that insurance won't cover medical tests or procedures that the doctor has ordered?


Does the patient have a will, trust, advance directive, or living will? Have they signed a healthcare proxy or power of attorney? Do the primary caregiver and/or caregiving team have access to these?

Interests & lifestyle

What are the patient’s hobbies? Does he or she belong to a church or other faith-based group? Does he or she get out of the house for social reasons? Get visitors at home? Do family members live close by? Is there someone from the patient’s faith community that can drive them to services?

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Next learn about…

Medication management
Emergency preparedness
Home safety

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This website was created to provide information, education, and support that will help cancer caregivers care for themselves and their family members. It is not meant as medical advice. Please check with your physician for any advice about your health.