Taking care of a loved one who’s sick is a second-nature reaction for most of us. But taking care of a parent who has a cold and an aunt with a long-term illness are two different beasts. And if it is a long-term illness, life will change permanently for you and your loved one.
It is important to understand that providing care for someone can change in an instant. For this reason, it is especially crucial to approach the tasks in an organized fashion. You should have a plan of action to build off of and a list of available resources ready to help you meet new and emerging needs. But where do you start?
It’s called a personal care plan, and how you create it is up to you. It can be a casual organization tool, an informal agreement with a loved one, or a formal contract used to coordinate payment for care services.
Where is the best place to start when creating a personal care plan? At the problem itself. Two key questions need to be asked: What exactly are the issues and the long- term consequences? Is the problem health-related, or is it more financial?
As you start working on the plan, getting answers and more questions, you may expand the original scope. A loved one’s home environment, activities of daily living (ADLs), medical and legal documents, and financial situation must be reviewed to make sure nothing is overlooked. Some loved ones may be resistant to such an intrusion into their personal affairs. That’s natural, but to gauge the severity of the problem getting a complete snapshot of their situation is vital for developing an appropriate plan of action.
Longer-term objectives like financial, advance care, estate and funeral planning can be addressed with the same two questions. These preparations are extremely important and can be time sensitive, depending on your loved one’s current situation.
Pro-active planning increases the likelihood that a loved one will be able to afford the lifestyle they have in mind for the future, guarantees that their health care and end of life wishes are respected even if they cannot convey them, and clearly specifies how their estate is to go through the probate process. Your loved one’s participation in setting these goals is paramount, so long as they are still competent to make these decisions.
A caregiver shouldn’t have to coordinate and execute all of these tasks unaided. Embarking on this journey alone frequently leads to damaging caregiver burnout and poor physical and mental health. The purpose of creating a care team is to take inventory of all resources at your disposal and encourage communication and cooperation amongst all those who are willing to participate in your loved one’s care plan.
Friends, family, neighbors, volunteers and other close members in the community are the most obvious candidates for assisting with a loved one’s day-to-day needs and personal care. It is best to assemble a team of constructive individuals who are eager to lend a hand or an ear when you need it most.
Make a list of viable solutions for each gap in your care plan. For example, to reach the goal of helping Dad eat healthier meals more frequently, your brother and sister who live nearby could take turns making him a few pre-made meals or inviting him over for dinner a few times each week, and siblings who live far away could contribute funds for a subscription food delivery service to make up the difference.
Try to identify each person’s individual strengths or abilities, and match them with feasible solutions. These individual assets can include proximity to the care recipient, free time in their schedule, monetary contributions, and skills like cooking, cleaning, and communicating. Get creative with how you appraise each team member and ideas for how they might be able to contribute.
The ultimate goal of having a care plan and care team in place is to promote communication and unified efforts for the welfare of care recipient and caregiver. A divide and conquer approach to caregiving is far more sustainable than a single person taking on all of these responsibilities. Keep in mind that a care plan is an ever-evolving tool. Professional care providers use similar organizational techniques and evaluate and update each client’s plan regularly to ensure all of their needs are being met. Finding proper solutions may take some trial and error, and your loved one’s needs are likely to increase over the long term.
Even if your loved one does not currently need a care plan, beginning to put these pieces of the puzzle into place early on can save valuable time and help you avoid a great deal of stress later on. They do not necessarily have to share detailed financial or medical records with you just yet, but simply having them keep an updated file with this information can be incredibly helpful in the event of an emergency. This goes for medications, health information, and legal documents as well. Should something happen, you will have the fundamental materials needed to make any decisions quickly and confidently.
In no way does this article presume solid legal advice. It is to serve as a consumer guide in the
complicated world of long-term care and financial strategies. It is best to consult an elder law attorney who can properly advise and draw up the necessary legal documents.