Happy New Year.  We’re only two weeks into 2018 and already two people have asked me to tell them the first steps in caregiving, so that is the topic for my first post of the year.

Whether you are looking ahead or in a crisis situation, the first step when a caregiving responsibility finds you is the same: Collect information.

Here’s my short list of the documents and information everyone ought to have readily available for their spouse or partner, children, parents and any other person you might be called up to care for.   I also recommend that everyone assemble this same information for themselves; it will be a huge help to anyone who becomes your caretaker.


  • Advance Health Care Directive naming at least 2 people authorized to make health care decisions for you, including a document authorizing the health care agents to receive information about your health and medical condition
  • Health Insurance / Medicare information / Veterans benefits
  • Names and telephone numbers for all health care professionals consulted in the past 12 months
  • Name, dose and prescribing health care professional for all medications, as well as any over-the-counter health-related products (vitamins, other supplements)


  • Social Security number
  • Will and/or trust
  • Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters
  • Inventory showing location of all banking, investment and retirement accounts, safe deposit boxes, etc.


  • Name, address and telephone numbers for all immediate family members
  • Make, model, color and license plate for all vehicles
  • Home and auto insurance company and policy numbers
  • Spare keys for home and vehicles

This information will give you a solid foundation to start caregiving.  Much of this information is only as good as it is current, so I recommend regular updates, at least twice a year.

I used a binder for my parents’ information and kept it where I could grab it on the way out the door.  Now I would probably keep the information and copies of the documents on my phone and/or laptop.

Whatever format you choose, don’t put off assembling this vital information.  Do It Now or Do It Today!