Becoming a family caregiver is a notoriously difficult task. This role’s challenges are largely due to the nature of caregiving - responsibilities are strenuous, frequently change, and come without a set rulebook to follow. This combination of both complexity and unpredictability is one of the main reasons we recommend you create a care plan. A care plan can help you prepare for a sudden change in your situation and offer you some peace of mind. This article will explain what a care plan is and how to think about putting yours together.
What is a Care Plan?
A care plan can really be anything you want it to be - from an informal contingency plan with you and your loved one, to a more formal agreement amongst broader family that establishes who is providing what type of care, when, and for how long.
The main purpose of a care plan is to create a strategy so that you as a caregiver feel both organized and prepared for what lies ahead.
How to Create a Care Plan:
While there’s no right or wrong way to create a care plan, here are a few steps and things to consider when putting yours together.
Assess the Current Situation for Living and Care One of the first things you should do when setting up a strategy for future care is to evaluate exactly where you are now. AgingCare has a wonderful checklist to help you think through the details of your loved one’s day to assess the current situation. This assessment will help you take an unbiased look at the situation today - understanding where help is and is not needed - which will allow you to make an educated guess on where the future of care is headed. In addition to home life, it’s also important to gather all medical documents, prescription information, etc. to ensure you have everything you need to assess the situation and prognosis from today.
Identify any Unmet Needs and Set Goals The next thing to consider is where the current needs are potentially left unmet, and how you’d like to adjust any existing care routines. Think through these questions: 1) What does the current routine lack? (Examples could be related to nutrition, exercise, social interaction, etc.) 2) What problems should we address? (Examples could be weight gain or loss, lack of stimulation, refusal to take medications, etc.) 3) What goals should we set? (Examples could be successfully eating 3 meals a day, incorporating 4 walks a week, getting your loved one to maintain independence on “x” task, making the home safer to prolong independence, etc.) 4) How does my loved one feel and what would they like to prioritize? Once you’ve gone through this exercise, you can repeat these questions with other longer-term aspects of care like estate planning, end-of-life care or advanced care options, funeral plans if needed, etc.
Pick the Care Team Finally, it’s time to identify who is going to help you and your loved one accomplish these goals. This can include the professional care team of doctors, nurses, and specialists as well as the friends and family who are able to help. In addition, it is worth looking into additional sources for help like charitable organizations, local government support options, and more. Even if you don’t need it now, it can become extremely valuable should you run into a conflict or your loved one’s needs suddenly change down the line.
Providing care to a loved one in need is a rewarding and challenging task. A bit of preparation is worth its weight in gold. Your care plan can include anything you’d like it to - the most important thing is that you give yourself time to gather your thoughts and essentials, make any necessary changes, and prepare for the future.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.