Don’t Procrastinate on Developing a Caregiver Backup Plan

Lissa Mariucci is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Adult Family Care, a nonprofit program that helps family caregivers across the Greater Boston Area 

Providing in-home care for someone who needs daily assistance is a major commitment. It’s not something people enter into lightly— and for that reason, it’s important for a caregiver to have a backup plan ready before it’s needed.

I recently spoke to a fellow social worker who saw the importance of a backup plan firsthand He was working with a caregiver who believed that a family friend would step in to provide care if needed. However, the caregiver never discussed this plan with that friend. When the caregiver unexpectedly landed in the hospital, the friend was not in a position to help.

This created a short-term crisis that sent the person receiving care to a nursing home. Fortunately, the caregiver returned home in only a few days. However, this story underscores the importance of a backup plan.

Is your caregiver backup plan in order? Here’s a few quick tips that can help ensure that you’re ready for the unexpected:

Plan Together: A backup plan is only helpful if everyone involved is on the same page. Granted, discussing worst-case scenarios can be difficult. Caregivers may feel more comfortable just hoping that one or more family members will step in if there is a crisis. However, this assumption can cause confusion or resentment, or worse, inadequate care for the dependent person.

To ensure the well-being of this person, a backup plan requires a commitment from the prospective backup care providers. The only way that the caregiver can receive this commitment is to begin the discussion.

Think Short and Long Term: At a bare minimum, caregivers should have a short-term backup plan for emergencies. Since life is unpredictable, it is also important to consider longer term care as well.

A longer term plan may be particularly relevant for parents who are caregivers of disabled, adult children. Will the parent be able to provide the necessary care as they themselves age? The adult child may want to live more independently in a residential setting with peers or direct their own care, relying on paid care attendants. Again, starting a discussion about the future care needs of a dependent child can be difficult. But beginning this conversation brings the reward of knowing that your loved one’s future care needs will be met.

Investigate Caregiving Resources: Caregivers often depend on their family members and social networks for backup when the going gets tough. There are many other resources available to support them as well. For example, one MassHealth funded program, Adult Foster Care, provides training, financial compensation and paid time off for caregivers. Local elder service agencies are an excellent place to start to learn about connecting with this program, as well as other kinds of in-home support and caregiving resources.

Hopefully that’s enough to help you get started. Developing a caregiver backup plan can be challenging, and sometimes there is no perfect answer. But it’s always better to know your options ahead of time, instead of waiting for a crisis.

Lissa Marcucci is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works for Adult Family Care (AFC), a non-profit Adult Foster Care program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services that provides compensation, training, and other supports for in-home caregivers across the Greater Boston Area. For more information, visit or call 617-628-2601.