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Getting Your Loved One’s Affairs in Order

Getting Your Loved One’s Affairs in Order

Getting Your Loved One’s Affairs in Order

A Step by Step Guide to Getting Organized for Families and Family Caregivers


For many people, getting and staying organized can be challenging.  Most often, it’s simply a matter of time and focus.  For many of us, getting organized just doesn’t get prioritized near the top of the list.  It always seems to be one of those things we swear we’ll do “when I have the time.” 

Organizing our own affairs can be difficult enough.  If you’re a family caregiver, you’re also facing the daunting task of organizing someone else’s affairs.  To make matters worse, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, their affairs might be in a state of disarray.

When it comes to getting organized, there is no one system that is going to work for everyone.  You’ll have to figure out what’s going to work best for you.  As with any new practice, getting started might be the hardest part.  It might be helpful to have a general framework as a guide that will help you start devising an action plan.  One way to think about organization is to consider the 5 C’s:  categorize, clean, communicate, collaborate, and commit.

  • Clean:  The best way to start organizing anything is to get rid of the clutter.  Getting rid of that which is unnecessary will make the job of organizing what is left that much more palatable. 
  • Categorize:  When approaching a big project like organizing your loved one’s affairs, it’s helpful break it up into manageable parts.  Categorize things you need to organize into different areas, such as legal documents, healthcare records, etc.  Then, you can tackle them one at a time. 
  • Communicate:  Reach out to people in your care network that can help.  Let them know what you’re trying to organize and how they might be of assistance.  Depending on your area of focus, it might make sense to communicate with various family members, friends, or professional advisors. 
  • Collaborate:  Once you’ve identified anyone willing to help, establish a working group for each area of focus.  For example, if you have a sibling who works in healthcare, your working group in the healthcare realm might consist of him/her, you, and your family doctor. 
  • Commit:  If the job of getting organized is always prioritized as “when I have the time,” it will never get done.  You really have to commit and dedicate some time to it.  Start by simply scheduling an hour a week to work on getting organized.  If you’ve got people who have offered to help, try to schedule a time when you can all meet and work together, either in person or virtually.

As is true with many aspects of being a family caregiver, the key takeaway here is to refrain from doing it all on your own.  Whatever your situation, there is surely help available in some form.  Don’t be afraid to ask for it.