Whatever your specific situation, be aware that the nature of providing care for someone can change in an instant. Therefore it can be especially beneficial to organize your myriad caregiver tasks into an plan of action. Then, should anything change, you will have a list of available resources ready to help you meet new and emerging needs. A care plan can be a casual organization tool, an informal or verbal agreement with a loved one, or a formal contract used to coordinate payment for care services. Plans can vary from daily to-do lists to detailed weekly accounts of amounts and types of care provided. The following steps can help you create your very first care plan or reevaluate your current plan.
Assess the situation
The first step in the process is an assessment of your loved one’s home environment, activities of daily living (ADLs), medical and legal documents, and financial situation, to see what is working well and what is not.
Identify needs and set goals
Based on the results of the care assessment, make a list of all concerns with the highest priorities at the top. Your loved one’s immediate health and wellbeing are the top priority, so for example if they are losing weight, this problems must be dealt with first.
Next, setting goals for their wellbeing will provide a proactive approach to ensuring their quality of life. A care plan is an ideal approach to longer-term objectives like financial, advance care, estate and funeral planning. These preparations are extremely important, so they should be a top priority to address. Your loved one’s participation in this process is paramount, as long as they are still competent to make these decisions.
Create a well-rounded care team
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. The purpose of creating a care team is to gather all resources at your disposal and encourage cooperation amongst all those willing to participate in your loved one’s care. Friends, family, neighbors, and other community members are the first tier of support. The more complex medical, legal and financial aspects of a care plan are then best handled by elder care professionals such as in-home or respite care services, elder law attorneys, therapists, benefits counselors, certified public accountants (CPAs), financial advisors, social workers, and geriatric care managers, who can be valuable additions to your care team.
Match team members with solutions
Some team member’s specific tasks will be obvious. An elder law attorney will handle drafting POA and advance directive documents, whereas a financial advisor can assist with money management strategies. Assigning specific tasks to friends and family members can be a little more challenging. Make a list of possible solutions for each need in your care plan. For example, to help Dad eat healthier meals more frequently, your sister who lives nearby could provide some pre-made meals or invite him over for dinner on a regular basis, and siblings who live far away could contribute to a food delivery service to make up the difference. Try to identify each person’s abilities, and match them with feasible solutions. These can include proximity to the care recipient, free time in their schedule, monetary contributions, and skills like cooking, cleaning, and communicating.
Put your plan into action
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. Keep in mind that a care plan is an ever-evolving tool. 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 can help you avoid a great deal of stress later on. Having them keep an updated file with financial and medical records including medications, health information, and legal documents can be vital in the event of an emergency. Should something happen, you will have the fundamental materials needed to make any decisions quickly and confidently.