By Maureen Rulison
Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC
Life care planning can be an uncertain process. And it’s tough even when you’re working with things you do know – like if your father has a living will or that eventually your aunt’s cancer treatments will no longer be effective. But what of the things you don’t know? Are you prepared to factor the unexpected?
As my Brian’s life partner/care partner along his path with dementia, I’ve even had difficulty preparing for the unknown (and that’s as a professional life care planner and Board-certified patient advocate who’s been doing this work for nearly 30 years). We’ve encountered numerous scenarios beyond our control that required flexibility and adaptability – not only from us but from everyone on our care partner team.
Of course, you always want to ensure your loved one’s well-being and happiness, no matter what the future holds. Because it’s not always good health, sunshine and rainbows. So it’s essential to plan for rough seas beyond the horizon when building a life care plan.
Some Great Reasons to Account for the Unexpected in Your Life Care Plan
You can’t let your life care plan get too rigid. Essentially, this living, breathing document can’t be too sure of itself.
- Will your older brother continue to age in good health? Or will a sudden and massive stroke leave him unable to speak the remainder of his days?
- Will your assets be safe for the next 25 years? Or will the stock market crash again next week?
- Will a trusted care partner be able to help your mother cook and clean? Or will he move across the country for work next year?
And these are just some of the potential questions and scenarios. One of the most significant advantages of having a life care plan is that it provides peace of mind for both you and your loved ones – when it works well. When the unexpected happens, it can be an emotional and challenging time.
But identifying risks and planning accordingly to have contingencies can ease the stress and uncertainty. Here are a few of the benefits of thinking ahead:
1. Protect Your Finances
Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes things easier. Unexpected events can put the worst possible strain on your family’s finances. If a loved one falls ill and needs medical treatment, the costs can quickly add up. In a poor economy, even the most comfortable families may fall upon hard times due to failing investments, plummeting property values or and/or unemployment.
But by recognizing these possibilities, you can work to set aside that rainy-day fund when times are good to cover any unanticipated expenses if times get bad.
2. Ensure Continuity of Care
If something unexpected occurs, will your loved one’s care continue without interruption? In an emergency, who will be there to help? That’s something Brian and I experienced two winters ago when I became deathly ill with pneumonia, and others on the care partner team were not available due to work, travel and other responsibilities to address the emergency. It was the perfect storm.
If a primary care partner becomes unavailable, you MUST have backup arrangements to ensure that your loved one’s needs are still met. And then have backups for those backups. And then fire drill that plan to ensure continuity of care actually works when disaster impacts your life care planning.
3. Avoid Confusion and Disputes
Unexpected events can cause confusion and argument, particularly if you do not have a plan in place. If a loved one falls ill and requires medical treatment, there may be conflicting opinions on the best course of action. Does your loved one see a certain doctor or avoid a certain medication/treatment? Did they spell out certain financial or legal wishes that may be necessary in an emergency – years or even decades before they should’ve been?
Unexpected realities don’t have to be unexpected. You can avoid such confusion and indecisiveness by planning so everyone is on the same page when it comes to your loved one’s care. Well-communicated planning ensures your loved one’s wishes, well-being and happiness are taken care of, no matter what the future holds.
4. Have Peace of Mind
A step further, life care planning with some foresight provides peace of mind. Even if you’re not a Type A person, being able to rest easy is worth its weight in gold. Just knowing helps – even if your life care planning works to know what can’t yet be known.
Of course, unanticipated events cause stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Your life care plan can address issues that aren’t even on your radar today to ease the burden tomorrow.
5. Adapt to Changing Needs
As your loved one(s) and the care partner team move through life, there will inevitably be proverbial fires to put out. But not all of them are five-alarm blazes.
Life is unpredictable, and a life care plan that factors the unexpected offers the flexibility to accommodate changes as they occur. Your loved one’s health won’t follow a playbook – good or bad. So your life care planning should be easily revised to accommodate changing needs. A new diet may be required, or a loved one may no longer be available to stop by for brief “coffee visits.” That’s fine. Let’s plan around that!
How Can We Help with Your Life Care Planning Needs?
I work with care partner teams every day to guide the life care planning process and coordinate resources needed for each step of the care journey. These plans may be specific, but they also require flexibility.
We all face important decisions – in good health and bad, expected or unexpected. There are many moving parts to planning care for quality of life and financial protection. You need an expert life care planner and Patient Advocate who knows each required step for your loved one’s well-being today and tomorrow.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.