Stages of Caregiving

Researchers have developed a model to explain the four stages of caregiving that one (of sick or aging

adults) typically goes through to some degree or another. These stages can help guide a person as to what

are the best things he/she can do for him/herself, what type of care to provide a loved one, and what one

can expect now and in the future.


Stage 1: Anticipatory Caregiver


This is the period of time when an individual sees the possibility of becoming a caregiver, usually within a

time span of 12-18 months. A person in this stage begins to see their loved one’s health beginning to

decline and he realizes that he will likely become one of this person’s caregivers. This is the time that an

Anticipatory Caregiver should be researching and gathering information. It is a good time to talk with a

loved one about their wishes if the person has not already done so. It is wise to find out about your loved

one’s finances and health, as well as discuss important legal documents. Experts also suggest beginning to

research community services, health programs, and any safety measures that need to be put in place. This

type of research and gathering of information is time consuming. Some of this can be done even prior to

this 12-18 month time frame.


Stage 2: Freshman Caregiver


A person is considered a Freshman Caregiver when they have been in the role of a caregiver for

approximately 6-9 months. During this stage, a person is likely realizing the enormity of the tasks they will

be responsible for in caring for their loved one. This person is apt to be looking for help from others. It is

recommended that Freshman Caregivers listen to their intuition on this and research what types of help is

available and if and how to pay for it. If possible, it is suggested to include your loved one in this decision

making process. Always be sure to clearly communicate plans to your family member and keep in mind you

will likely need to repeat it.


Stage 3: Entrenched Caregiver


Just as it sounds, a person in this stage has been providing care for some time and may be feeling

overwhelmed and exhausted. Often individuals in this stage have made compromises to their own well being

or immediate family as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. When this happens, the caregiver also

jeopardizes the quality of care they are providing their loved one. Delegating, asking others for help and

respite care are viable options that many people are reluctant to employ, but to neglect doing so often

leads to resentment, anger, and depression. It is important for the Entrenched Caregiver to take good care

of him or herself physical, emotionally and spiritually.


Stage 4: Caregiver in Loss


Loss is the final stage for a caregiver. It may be that a person has made the decision that they are no

longer able to care for their loved one anymore or in the kind of way their loved one requires. This person

may have placed their family member into a care facility such as a nursing home or Hospice. In some cases,

it may be that their loved one has passed. Either way, this caregiver is experiencing grief and loss in both

the ending of their roles and responsibilities and the departure of their loved one. It is important for these

individuals to move forward. This will take time and support from friends, family, and colleagues. The

individual may need to seek professional counseling to help them or perhaps find a support group. The grief

experienced in this stage is completely natural and will become less over time.


For more information and resources to help caregivers:

Aging Care

Caregiver Support Groups at Emory and Oxford

Dependent Care Resource & Referral (BrownRichards & Associates)

Contact Audrey Adelson – Dependent Care Program Specialist, Emory WorkLife Resource Center

Contact Faculty & Staff Assistance Program