The importance of proper care planning cannot be overstated for both seniors and their family caregivers. While everyone has a different plan, some integral parts make all the difference in an easy and successful experience.
What Is an Elder Care Plan?
If a loved one in your life is aging and needs care, chances are you've begun the task of developing an elder care plan. Care plans give family caregivers the ability to organize their time and focus on the task at hand. These plans typically involve a list of simple daily tasks such as appointments, medications and/or allergies their caregiver or loved one needs to be aware of, or more detailed schedules that track every minute of the day.
Typically a care plan will include:
- Health conditions
- Healthcare providers
- Emergency contacts
- Caregiver resources
A senior's care plan should be reviewed regularly to meet all new needs without error, ultimately improving quality of life and decreasing chances for mishaps in any given situation.
The Benefits of an Elder Care Plan
The benefits of an adequately outlined elder care plan are plentiful. Care plans can decrease emergency room visits and hospitalizations and enhance the medical management for those living with chronic health conditions like Alzheimer's, resulting in a better quality of life. Care plans also supply support for the caregiver to continue leading a healthy life of their own. Caregivers can be more efficient when they know what is expected of them. By organizing their schedules effectively, a family caregiver will have better time management and less stress caring for an elderly loved one with complex needs.
Signs Your Loved One May Need Help
If you are questioning the requirement for a care plan, here are some typical signs that point towards the need for one:
- Unkempt appearance
- Body odour
- Weight loss
- Appearing overwhelmed
- New unhealthy behaviours
- Expired food in the fridge
- Overflowing garbage
- Unclean house
- Unexplained dents or scratches on car
- Unpaid bills
- Dirty linens
Steps for Developing an Elder Care Plan
Once you and your loved one have decided to develop an elder care plan, consider the following steps. Consider talking about long-term options early on so that there aren't any surprises later!
1. Put Together Your "Care" Team
The first step to creating an elder care plan is gathering information and addressing any issues at hand. All areas of a senior's daily living must be considered when devising strategies, from the security of their home or facility to how they get around town safely each day.
While caregiving can be difficult, it is essential for the person who will eventually take on these responsibilities to understand their needs and preferences. Care teams should include family members and close friends or neighbors if possible to not overwhelm them with decisions when they first start caring for an elderly loved one at home themselves. When adding members to your care team, be sure and select upbeat individuals with practical skills. You can always add more if needed later on!
An experienced elder care team is best equipped to handle all of the medical, legal and financial aspects of providing long-term support for an ageing loved one. Fortunately, experts are available who have years of knowledge about these issues, including lawyers specializing in family law or CPA qualified accountants.
Remember: within this care team, you should also include the person who requires care to understand what is expected of them throughout the day.
2. Document All the Medical Needs
Once you've determined who will be within the care team, outline and document all current medical needs, including routine appointments, medications, allergies, and ailments. This portion of the care plan should be continually updated. If you are unsure of specific medical needs, talk to the doctor of the person you will be caring for to avoid confusion.
3. Assess Physical & Psychological Needs
Next, you will need to assess the physical and psychological needs of the care recipient.
- Will they need assistance to go to the washroom?
- Will simple functions like bathing, toileting, grooming, eating and mobility require assistance?
- Do you have the necessary modifications to make these tasks easier?
- Will you need to rely on a home care worker?
- Is the care recipient of sound mind?
- Are they mobile enough to be left on their own?
These are just a few questions you should consider. Assessing these needs is incredibly important, as it will ensure the proper care is provided. This step should be done with the help of a medical professional and may require mental and/or cognitive tests.
4. Determine the Type of Senior Care Needed
The caregiver's journey is not an easy one. You may find that you need help from professionals or services outside of your family at some point, and it can be challenging to know which resources are best for what type of caregiving situation you're facing now. Professional services and/or federal, state or local programs should fill any gaps in your care plan after you assign responsibilities to team members. These can include:
- Home Care
- Adult Day Care
- Geriatric Care Managers
- Elder Law Attorneys
- Financial Planners
- Social Workers
5. Determine Any Caregiver Needs
According to the CDC, 84% of caregivers report they could use more information and support regarding caregiving topics such as safety at home, coping with stress, and managing their care recipient's difficult behaviors.
Respite care is an essential service for those involved in the care plan. It helps relieve stress and ensures quality time between patient and caregiver without worrying about overworking themselves, leading to burnout from lack of rest.
6. Put Together Your Plan
Once you feel that you've compiled all the necessary information, it's time to put together your plan. The CDC has developed a Complete Care Plan form that can be filled out and given to all care team members.
7. Hold a Meeting with All Stakeholders
Now that all of the necessary information is compiled, it's best to have a meeting with all those involved, including your loved one. This can be a stressful time for them, as they may feel a loss of freedom. In a study that surveyed adult children, over three out of four (77%) said they believe their parents are stubborn about accepting help. It's important to acknowledge these emotions, no matter how difficult it may be.