Unexpected Emergencies Can Derail a Life Care Plan
By Maureen Rulison
Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC
There’s so much to consider in life care planning. You’re worried about health and financial stability for your loved one who requires care (and everyone else involved). You must also factor family relationships and personal realities in this puzzle with many moving parts. But despite our best efforts to predict the future, unexpected emergencies can completely derail even a great life care plan.
From sudden illnesses to financial struggles – and even natural disasters – it’s essential to be prepared for the unexpected to ensure that your loved one’s life care plan remains on track, or can at least adapt to changing realities.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Here are Some Common Life Care Plan Emergencies
That’s the million-dollar question: what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many care partner teams assume, with a solid life care plan in place, that everything is going to be fine. But a plan with no flexibility can make even minor emergencies worse.
Here are some realities to consider:
1. Family Emergencies
Family emergencies – like the unexpected death of a supporting care partner or a divorce – can place significant strain on your life care plan. Essentially, you can never guarantee who will be there to help tomorrow. The neighbor who frequently checks on your mother may become ill herself. A daughter-in-law may quickly become an ex-daughter-in-law.
The list goes on.
Events like these can carry emotional stress, financial strain, and loss of support you previously counted upon from family members and/or close friends. Couple that with the uncertainty of adjusting roles in the life care plan, and already heart-wrenching scenarios can become fatal flaws.
2. Sudden Illnesses
Caregivers can have health issues, too. We’re all human. While your loved one is intended to be the focus of care, it’s easy to see how poor health within the team can throw a wrench in an otherwise well-oiled machine.
Sudden illnesses can be both physically and financially debilitating. They can result in extended hospital stays, rehabilitation and lost wages from time off work. So caregiver self-care is imperative. It’s also vital that care partners have some sort of adequate health insurance coverage.
Your care – before you can care for someone else – won’t accomplish much without your own health and stability.
3. Financial Hardship
Finances are one of Americans’ greatest stressors. Nearly two-thirds of us live paycheck-to-paycheck. Yet, the responsibility to care for loved ones doesn’t care how much (or little) we make.
Job loss can pull the rug out from under anyone. Without a slush fund, paying bills and maintaining a lifestyle – while still caring for your loved one – would be nearly impossible. A network of professional contacts that can assist you in finding a new job is incredibly valuable.
Market fluctuations also can significantly impact financial stability, particularly if you have investments that are heavily tied to the stock market or property. It’s easy to get under water when market factors beyond your control send prices soaring and value plummeting. Diversify your investments to prepare for market volatility, so dips and recessions can’t cause quite so much damage.
4. Natural Disasters
People tend to leave these potentials for last in a life care plan. But a hurricane, forest fire, tornado, earthquake, 500-year flood or some other cataclysm is always waiting on the other side of tomorrow.
My life partner/care partner, Brian (who lives with dementia) and I live in Clearwater, FL. There seems to always be a tropical storm, at the very least, heading our direction during hurricane season. Just last year, Hurricane Ian narrowly missed our area, but forced our evacuation and caused a series of nightmares that could’ve derailed our life care plan indefinitely.
The physical damage was the least of our concerns. Stress and changing environments with dementia can certainly speed up the disease’s progression. Not to mention the travel issues that would’ve left us trapped and without access to emergency services for days or weeks.
So it’s important to have a disaster preparedness plan including contingencies for evacuation, the location of shelters, and close care partners who could provide assistance when emergency services can’t reach you.
Are You Prepared for Emergencies in Your Life Care Plan?
To prepare for family emergencies, it’s important to build and nurture the care partner team. Your team is your support network, including close friends, family members and professional support services that are prepared to help when times get rough. If possible, work toward having a solid emergency fund in place, as well, so you’re not forced to choose between paying bills vs. necessary medical treatments.
If you need help, Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC has over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life care planning, including care partner team-building, Medicaid planning and board-certified patient advocacy. We’re happy to provide referrals and guide the process in a caring and compassionate way.