How to Write a Care Plan

Care plans are written for people who are ill or have been injured in an accident and need long-term care by professional care givers or family members. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 9 million Americans age 65 and over needed long-term care in 2007, with that number expected to rise to around 12 million by the year 2020. An accident or illness can strike at any age. Historically, the extended family group provided care when needed. But today’s families are smaller and often scattered across the country, adding an extra challenge to caring for an aging loved one. Despite these challenges, families and friends continue to provide a significant amount of long-term support and care. Let's find out how to develop a care plan for the person in your life who needs it.

Know when your loved one needs assistance. People are living longer and healthier now, but as we age, our physical capacities change. We slow down and often need help before we know it. If you notice a loved one struggling with everyday living, find out how he feels about it and what you can do to help. Explain your concern. Ask your loved one what he thinks the solution might be. It may not be appropriate to insist on your approach unless there is a threat to his safety or to the safety of others.

Observe carefully. If you notice her clothes are not as clean as they used to be, you might ask if you can throw in a few loads of laundry while you are visiting.

Pay attention. Your loved one might tell you about a problem or concern. If your Mom tells you the grocery bags are too heavy for her to carry, you can offer to shop for her or go shopping with her. As you focus on the issues, you can speak with other family members and friends about your concerns. They may be a good source of insight, especially if they see your aging loved one regularly. You may see changes in mental and physical capabilities. You may notice changes in behavior, or you might see signs of a physical problem. If an older adult seems forgetful or takes longer to do some tasks, it may be a normal part of the aging process. Paying a bill a week late is not the same as forgetting to pay bills for three consecutive months. The most important consideration is whether the changes you see pose a threat to your loved one’s medical or physical safety.

Develop a care plan. A care plan will define the services needed to provide care. Developing a care plan is a process that you adapt to your specific circumstances. List the areas where support and additional care are needed. These will generally fall into these areas: housekeeping, laundry, shopping, household paperwork; social and safety needs including transportation services, companionship and daily telephone checks; nutrition-meal planning, cooking, and meal delivery; health care-nursing, social work, physical and rehabilitative therapy, and medication monitoring; personal care-assistance with personal hygiene, medical equipment, dressing, bathing and exercise.

Figure out who can devote the necessary time/attention to provide support.

Make a list of specific help needed. For example, who can do the laundry each week?

Get specific commitments. These commitments need to include, as appropriate, a statement of who, what, when, where and how.

Develop your plan so it outlines a schedule for house visits by you and other family members. Identify community resources that will provide additional support, including services like meals on wheels, transportation services and visiting nurse services. In some cases, you may need to employ a a live-in aide to provide full-time care, or consider assisted living or nursing home placement.

Be prepared to revise the care plan as needs change.

Write down the care plan you have developed. Distribute a copy to everyone involved including your loved one. He may wish to modify it as the situation changes and deserves to have input into his own care.