Your parents had the foresight to create a personal care plan years ago, but for the last decade the plan has occupied a place in the file cabinet, collecting dust. During that time, there hasn’t been a need to use the plan, but Dad’s health is starting to change and the possibility of needing to use the plan is increasing.
Guess what? Open up the file cabinet and pull out the binder! It’s time to review!
From a practical standpoint, the plan should be reviewed and updated periodically. This is most certainly true if there is a health event, i.e., a new health diagnosis or a visit to the emergency room.
The frequency of evaluation depends largely on the nature of the care recipient’s medical conditions and the level of assistance they require. For example, a person with a progressive condition like COPD or dementia will likely need more frequent assessments than an individual with milder or more stable health issues.
There are times when you will have to play Columbo and be observant. Picking up on even subtle changes in how a parent is feeling, both physically and mentally, is an ongoing part of providing high quality care. Start by talking with them and, most importantly, listening for any changes or complaints that seem to be new or more serious than usual. If Mom isn’t honest or forthcoming about how she is feeling, you will need to rely on careful observation to detect changes in body language and behavior that can indicate things like pain, discomfort, and confusion.
Sometimes changes to a care plan aren’t made because of a hospital visit or change in health. Certain tweaks can refresh a senior’s daily routine and provide preventative health benefits. Work with your loved one to set personal goals that are based on improving their physical and mental condition as well as their quality of life.
A comprehensive care plan usually requires a team effort; family members, friends, professionals and community resources need to be consulted in order for the plan to be executed smoothly. Regular communication with all team members is essential. Each person brings a unique perspective and area of expertise to the table, and different people tend to pick up on things others may miss. Interacting with a senior in various situations and different times of day can also reveal a great deal about changes in their health and functional abilities.
Take time to find out how the person you’re caring for feels about their care routine, too. Let them know that they still have control over their day-to-day life and whom they spend it with. If there is a part of their routine that they aren’t fond of or something they would like to add, work with them to make reasonable and realistic changes. The same goes for members of the care team. If they are not connecting with a particular team member or caregiver, don’t be afraid to make a change if you think there might be a better fit.
A care plan is as much for your benefit as it is for your loved one. Each time you evaluate the care plan and team, take inventory of how you are feeling mentally and physically. You may find that you’ve forgotten to schedule this year’s annual physical or that you’re feeling spread too thin. Set goals for your own daily routine and find ways to incorporate them into the plan. This will enable you to make time for yourself so that you can engage in self-care.
Introducing outside help, such as in-home care or adult day care services, even for a weekend or one day a week, can give you a well-deserved break. Home care companies also devise and regularly update a client’s care plan as part of their services. If you could use some extra support and assistance with coordinating care and responsibilities, in-home care is an excellent option.
Be attentive to your loved one’s changing needs, factor yourself into this care plan, and take advantage of all the resources available to you through your friends, family and community.
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.