In today’s world, you can’t be too prepared. We buy insurance for our homes, our cars, our businesses, and much more. As any insurance risk adjuster would tell you, preparation is key. For the same reasons that we buy insurance, it’s also a good idea for senior caregivers to piece together a care plan for our aging loved ones.
From anything like establishing an emergency contact number in case of an accident, to the steps taken if you notice a subtle change in their behavior, your loved one may need help overcoming challenges or reaching goals. This article walks you through the process of creating an effective care plan for someone you love.
1. Form the Team
Start by deciding who will be part of the care plan team. First and foremost, this must start with your loved one. If they’re not on board with the plan and know they’ve been part of creating it, the likelihood of success is low. Include primary caregivers, such as family members and close friends. They’ll be part of the ongoing support system. And, of course, include health care providers — your loved one’s doctors, nurses, therapists, and so on.
2. Identify the Problem
It’s hard to solve a problem unless it’s clearly stated and understood by the whole care team. Be as specific as possible. For example, “John’s blood pressure is too high,” is not as effective as “John’s blood pressure averages 180/95 and his doctor would like to see it reduced to 120/80.”
3. Set the Goal(s)
“Your loved one needs to have the goal," says Susan, national health services director for The Goodman Group. "It needs to be their goal, not the family’s, nurse’s, or doctor’s.” The most effective goals are specific, measurable, achievable (realistic), and timely. This is popularly known as “SMART” goals. For example, “Steve wants to lose some weight” is vague. How much weight? How long will it take? How will Steve know when he’s met his goal?
An example of a SMART version of that goal is, “Steve wants to lose 15 pounds over the next four months to help lower his blood pressure.” This goal is specific, measurable, and paves the way to make a week-by-week plan to lose about a pound. With your unique situation, make sure that it follows the SMART guidelines, and you’ll find that it makes it more doable and realistic.
You can have more than one goal, but Susan suggests not going too far with your goal setting. She cautions, “You probably want to limit yourself to no more than three goals, and for some, three may be too many.” Remember, goals need to be achievable and trying to overdo it can set back progress.
4. Create the Plan
Now that you’ve delineated your SMART goal, you can begin with establishing the steps you’ll take to accomplish that. In Steve’s case, it may mean a weekly meal plan with assistants to help him choose and prepare the right food for his diet. However, depending on your circumstances, your plan will vary. Just remember that it has to have actionable steps that push you closer to your goal.
5. Maintain an Ongoing Support System
We all need support, no matter what our circumstances or goals in life are. It’s no different for seniors. “Loneliness can cause depression and then lead to health issues and not following through with their goals," Susan says. "Ongoing support keeps your loved one engaged and enthusiastic. It keeps them wanting to reach those goals.”
Make a chart so your loved one has a constant reminder of his or her goals and can track their progress along the way. You and your loved one can meet to discuss progress in the early stages of the care plan. Talk about what is working and what seems too difficult. You can revise your plan if need be. Before you know it, with a plan in place, your loved one will have met the goal.