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As my spouse's primary caregiver, what happens if I get sick?

Ask your Care Planner is a series where a Right at Home Care Planner dives into some of the questions our clients and their families ask. If you would like to submit your own questions or speak to a Care Planner please call us at 1-855-983-4663 or use the contact us form. Today’s question comes from Beth in Fredricton.

Q: As my spouse's primary caregiver, what happens if I get sick?

As a primary caregiver, so many things rely on you being healthy and strong. You are the pillar of the household! Unfortunately, the extra energy needed to care for yourself and care for your spouse can sometimes be enough to cause "cracks in the pillar." It is not uncommon for caregiving spouses and loved ones to experience extreme burnout or even become sick themselves, so it is essential for you and your family to have a comprehensive Caregiver Contingency Plan in place in case you cannot care for your loved one yourself.

What is a Caregiver Contingency Plan?

A caregiver contingency plan is a backup plan that ensures your loved one can still be safe and happy and receive proper care, even if you cannot provide it yourself. A caregiver contingency plan should be designed with family or trusted friends, as it may take a few resources to make it all happen!

Key considerations to help you build out your plan include:

  1. When and how frequently do I need help caring for my loved one? What care needs does my spouse have that I am currently fulfilling?
  2. Do I have family members who can help in some way?
  3. Do I have friends/neighbours who can help in some way?
  4. What community services are available and funded by the government?
  5. What gaps remain once I piece together all of the above?

Building a Caregiver Contingency Plan

Step 1: Identify your Spouse's Care Needs

Ask yourself questions that will allow you to "paint a picture" of the kind of care needs your spouse or loved one has. For example, can your spouse prepare any meals for themselves? Do they need help with dressing, bathing or personal care? Does your loved one need help at night? Does your spouse roam, and are they at risk of leaving the house? Do they need help getting up and ready for the day and help getting settled at night? Do they need meaningful conversation during the day? What about appointments? Are they able to attend their own appointments or do they need help?

Asking yourself these types of questions will help you identify your exact needs, which will help you start planning out your Care Contingency Plan.

Step 2: Start a Care Calendar

Plot the frequency and duration of the help you provide on a calendar, which will be the support your spouse will need if you fall ill.

If anything doesn't fall into a tidy calendar, write a list of what unscheduled support may be needed. Keep this list with or written on the back of your Care Calendar.

Step 3: Talk to Family

Reaching out to your immediate and close extended family is an important starting point. It's best to talk to them as early as possible in the planning phase to ensure you understand if they can help, and if so, in what capacity. Find out:

  • Who in your close family would be able to assist, what time of day can they help, and are they nearby?
  • If you have adult children, do they have employee benefits at work that would allow them to take time to help?

Create a calendar of when and who can assist.

Step 4: Identify Helpful Neighbours and Friends

Neighbours and friends can usually help for shorter durations and simple things around the house.

  • Who in this circle could aid with some relief – an hour here or there? A meal?
  • Who has a car and/or license to help drive to an appointment?
  • Who can help with grass cutting during summer, watering the garden, and snow clearing during winter?

Add them to the Care Calendar, or put notes on your calendar to remind you of what "unscheduled" events they can help with, such as driving, grass cutting and bringing in the mail.

Step 5: Investigate Community Services

Many communities have local services, such as Meals on Wheels, respite care, volunteer visiting, transportation, and respite centres. However, the availability of these supports varies by community and can often have a waitlist.

Put together a list of these contacts/companies and reach out to understand what is available near you and how quickly their services could be set up.

Add these services to your Care Calendar.

Step 6: Access Government-Funded Home Care Services or other funded supports

Have you engaged with Government-funded supports? The way to reach these supports varies from province to province, but the process looks the same. Please see the list of numbers/contact information below to discuss what services are available and if your loved one will qualify.


British Columbia -

Nova Scotia



If you already receive government-funded home care services, are you at the maximum allowable hours? Additional hours may be available in the event of your illness or functional decline. In addition, some government-funded home care services in Canada can provide extra support during a heightened time of need. Reach out to your Case Manager or government care representative to learn if additional hours may be available if you need them in the event of your illness.

Step 7: Identify Gaps in your Caregiver Contingency Plan

Often, even as we recruit our family and friends to assist and engage in community or government-funded services, there are still needs that are not being met. For example, families can be far away or busy with their own families. Friends may only be somewhat reliable or not available while on vacation. Government community supports are nice to have but often very limited.

Identifying your gaps in your Caregiver Contingency Plan can help you focus on additional services or needs.

Step 8: Find A Professional Care Provider to fill the Care Gaps

If you are finding gaps in your Caregiver Contingency plan, consider a family-funded (privately paid or insurance-paid) care provider, like Right at Home.

Family-funded organizations like Right at Home are flexible and professional in-home care solutions providing as much or as little support as needed and can increase or decrease support as needs change. As a result, you can engage in as little as a few hours of service here and there, all the way up to 24/7 care and everything and anything in between.

Seek out a reputable organization, like Right at Home, with a Care Planner professional available to you at any time to assist you in ensuring the care in your home is the RIGHT care. Look for a fully vetted, bonded and insured organization with professional care management.

Q: How Can Right at Home Help This Process?

Right at Home can help in many ways!

Our Care Planners are ready to discuss all aspects of your care needs or even help you build your Care Contingency Plan.

Your Right at Home Care Planner is an active community member who can help you navigate and guide you to resources and extra services available in your community. We can assist in connecting you with government-funded care, too. Your Care Planner can also share what Right at Home has to offer and provide services needed to fill any gaps in your Care Contingency.

If you already have care with Right at Home, we can work with you and your family to adjust your existing Care Plan and introduce new team members to provide additional support if that time arrives.

So, if someone you love is relying on you to help them, ensure you take the time to develop your Caregiver Contingency Plan. This plan is crucial to ensure that both you and your loved one are well-cared for during challenging times.

Why Right at Home?

  • Over 20 years of experience. Right at Home has been providing award winning customized senior care and home care for over 20 years.
  • YOUR Caregivers are all part of YOUR Care Team. This means that there is no revolving door of Personal Support Workers and Nurses. With the help of your Care Planner, you choose and get to know them. This leads to an level of care for your loved one that is unsurpassed in our industry.
  • Working with government support. Your Care Planner will work to help you find the government supports you are eligible for (if you would like them) and then work to find a solution for the care needs that go above what government and family can do. We will also work around the government care plan so that we are enhancing it.

We help in home, wherever home is to you.

Our Caregivers are always out in the community visiting homes, Retirement Residences, Long Term Care (LTC), hospices and hospitals.

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