If you are taking a long road trip to a place you have never been, you probably are going to look at a road map to help make decisions on the route to choose. But nowadays, the GPS on phones or cars has provided a new method of guidance from start to finish. If you then deviate from the route, it recalculates and tells you a new route or routes to follow.
As we travel down the path of life, the twists and turns are many, especially as we age. Pre-crisis planning can be very important by getting financial and legal affairs in order so that there will not be an asset protection crisis if long term care is needed. Pre-planning increases the chances that your loved one can stay on the main path you want, which is to stay at home, thereby preserving independence and dignity. That initial path may include learning about the network of resources available in the community, such as support groups, day care facilities and programs to educate families on what others have done. A pre-crisis plan is like that initial route a family may have decided to take on a big family road trip.
But driving that trip when highway construction or a car accident closes a road, you may be forced to divert, and make route changes. That’s when Sally, or whatever her name is on the GPS, tells you to divert and take a different route. A change in plans for living independently can be triggered by sudden health problems, such as a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer, a debilitating chronic condition, or heart attack, stroke or often times a fall.
In that situation, an immediate change in the direction of care may be needed. Is an outside care taker needed? Should the living arrangements or place of living be changed? Where can you get that care? How many hours, and what is the cost of care? And very significantly, what government programs are available to help pay for that care?
Like road signs warning of trouble ahead, there may be warning signs that care will be needed, such as dad wandering or getting lost, or mom forgetting to turn the stove burner off, or not eating properly. Then the family will want a plan to combine their efforts with outside services.
A big road sign that outside help is needed is a caregiving spouse or child starting to feel burned out.
Regardless of the reasons for needing to make changes, there is a legal service equivalent of GPS for helping solve the problems of elder care. It is sometimes called a Life Care Plan. There is a national law firm organization called the Life Care Planning Law Firms Association that consists of lawyers whose goal is to assist with all those changes in direction due to illness or aging. A life care plan starts out with plan A, which is what is initially needed for care, knowing that it may be necessary to go to Plan B or C as the care needs change. A firm doing life care planning is like that voice in the GPS that says “slow traffic ahead. You can detour to another route.” Like the GPS, law firms providing a life care plan already know the twists and turns that can be expected as the kind of care, the amount of care, and the place of care, changes. These are critical and often difficult family decisions.
There are people that start out doing rehabilitation in nursing homes with little chance of going home, but in most cases rehabilitation can result in a return home. A life care plans major purpose is to promote good health, safety, well-being and quality of life. At the same time, it may also help save as many assets as possible for the healthy spouse, and possibly the children, but the main goal is always to help mom or dad find the best and safest living arrangement possible. Kind of like the GPS voice saying “turn right and follow this route to the end of the road”.
So as the health and care problems of aging require planning for the best route forward, healthwise and financially, a life care plan can be an invaluable assistance and guide in taking that journey, both for the one needing care, and for the family seeking the best for their loved ones.