Caregiver Succession: Who takes charge when a caregiver passes?

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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If you’ve owned your own company or worked for a larger organization, you know that there is a hierarchy from the CEO or president down the management line. As people leave the company for whatever reason, a plan is usually in place as to who will take charge.


Have you given any thought as to what would happen in your family, especially among our elderly parents, if or when the one providing care passes away? The remaining parent is suddenly left with no one in place to provide assistance with daily life and other needs. Even the adult children are often caught off guard and are unaware of what the needs of the surviving parent are, or how to provide for those needs. Therefore, having a family succession plan, which isn’t a formal document, is something that can be created and kept with other important papers like advance directives, estate plans and wills.

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It’s important to understand that if the family doesn’t have someone appointed to become the backup caregiver, and the primary spouse and caregiver pass away, a probate court judge may appoint a person to take over the care of the surviving spouse and their estate, and that can become costly and not be in line with the long term wishes of the deceased spouse.


Here are some suggestions as to what you can do before a secondary caregiver is needed:


  • Have a family meeting and agree to have someone become the secondary caregiver. 
  • Make a list of the medical diagnoses, the symptoms and the medications needed. 
  • Create a list of the caregiving functions that are being provided and note what mom or dad is no longer able to do, such as preparing meals, managing medications, bathing or dressing.
  • Provide information on any special needs or problems like depression or sundowning.
  • If the caregiver happens to be the power of attorney for health care, you’ll need to name a backup person for that role as well.
  • Caregivers will also need to specify changes in behavior and note the risk factors, like a change in appetite, particularly forgetting to eat at all.
  • Include safety concerns about cooking, driving, wandering outside of the home, and medication compliance.
  • Note financial concerns if the patient spends irresponsibly or gives money away inappropriately due to their confusion.
  • Summarize caregiving dos and don’ts so as to not unintentionally upset the patient.
  • List any major physical conditions such as limited vision, hearing, smell, and taste.
  • Note any skin conditions, such as sores or wounds, and if there are major issues involving the patients heart, lungs, kidneys or digestive tract.


While we never know what the future holds, being prepared with a game plan for any surprises by planning ahead can make the unexpected transition for the care of a loved one much easier.


Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease.” You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: