If you are a primary caregiver for a family member who is ailing or aging, there might be a lot of questions about the best course of action. This time in your life can be stressful. You're taking care of someone who you love deeply. At the same time, you need to try to remain unbiased about treatment options. You need to be their doctor, nurse, homemaker, and more. If you fall into the largest percentage of adults caring for aging parents, you likely have a family of your own that needs care, as well.
The amount of information you'll need to keep track of can be intimidating. This is one of the reasons that healthcare professionals create care plans.
What Is a Care Plan?
A care plan is exactly what it sounds like - it's a document that records the plan for a person's care. No two plans are alike. You can use examples or templates to help you create your plan, but the reality is that each person will have specific needs. For instance, there's a big difference between the type of in home care that men and women need. Women often need care to cover things like house work and long term support, while men are more likely to need help in areas such as wound care.
While you can look at generalities to get a good idea of what to include, your care plan will start with an assessment of the patient. From there, you'll develop the information you need to keep that patient on track and to help create the best quality of life available for them to stay at home.
Aging in place can mean many things. Often older people don't want to leave the home they've lived in for many years. It can also be more financially feasible to care for the aging at home when possible. To aid in this, your care plan should be updated regularly to assess the patient's quality of life and record any illnesses or issues with treatment plans.
Think of your care plan like a manual. It offers a handy resource so you can assess their day to day progress or find information when necessary.
What to Include in a Care Plan
Your care plan will be specific to the patient, but there is general information for your to include to help you create a cohesive plan. A good way to look at this is as the health equivalent of a business plan. A business plan helps you to organize the needs of your business to plan for long term success. It includes financial information, goals, and individual department structures necessary to run your business. With a health plan, you'll include information pertinent to the long term success of a patient. It would include information, resources, prognosis for illness, treatment plans, and schedules. Both plans are created with the intention of organizing and better preparing for success - one in business and one in long term care.
Your care plan can be broken down into sections. Here are some general sections to get you started:
- Assessment. The overall assessment of the patient might include medical information and long term goals. In a case that a patient has a health issue that's not curable, information should be made available for the progression of the illness. For instance, there will be symptoms as the disease or issue worsens that any caretaker should be aware of in order to catch signs early on. Long term and short term treatment goals should be included.
- Listing the Team of Caregivers. Often people need more than one person to help in their elderly care. This might include multiple family members and may also make use of healthcare professionals.
- Delineation of Responsibilities. Each person's responsibilities should be listed in the care plan so that there's no miscommunication over tasks.
- Schedule. A current schedule should be included so that any caretaker will know about upcoming appointments and times for medications. This schedule will likely change often and should be assessed regularly.
- Resources. A list of resources such as physician's numbers and other pertinent information for care and life management should be included for an easy reference.
- Contingency and Emergency Planning. Even if your loved one is not suffering from a terminal or long term illness, contingency planning can help the family prepare for any type of emergency. This might include emergency contact numbers and list the person who would be responsible for medical decisions.
- Elder Law and Financial Planning. Your plan should include pertinent facts about any living will, guardians, or advanced statements. It's important that medical staff is apprised of any legal requirements in care.
Uses and Notes on Your Care Plan Creation
Care plans were traditionally used by nurses to better serve patients. They can be an excellent asset for the professional staff and family caring for an aging relative. When more than one person is involved in care, this gives a handy reference so that everyone is aware of new changes and routines. Even if one person is taking the lead in care, this allows them an organized way to keep track of tasks and treatment.
It's important that your plan is written in a language that everyone is comfortable with and understands. You may decide to include medical terminology with a sort of lay person's translation so that each member of the family tasked with responsibilities understands. If you stay current and update your care plan regularly, it can serve as an excellent tool to stay organized and better meet treatment goals.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a successful care plan, and it can be a source of stress for primary caregivers, who must also keep own mental health in mind. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re happy to discuss creating an effective care plan — and you should also take a look at our infographic that provides ways caregivers can provide self-care.