What Is a Life Care Planner and Why Do I Need One?
One of the hardest things you or your family member can experience is an accident that leads to permanent physical disability or permanent impairment such as a brain injury. The reality is your life as well as your family’s life may never be the same again. Adjustment to a new life situation(s) and new needs and responsibilities of caring for the injured person can seem overbearing. However, having a Life Care Planner can go a long way to ensure that both the injured party and the family’s needs of future medical and non-medical care are accounted for.
What Is A Life Care Planner?
A life care planner is a professional who completes a thorough data analysis of records and treatments, conducts an interviews with clients, family, and treating health providers, an assessment of future needs for their client after they undergo a non-catastrophic or life-threatening injury, and then obtains future cost of medical and non-medical care needs.
A life care planner is most often a nurse practitioner by profession or a person in a similar role such as a physiologist, chiropractor, medical doctor, social worker or anyone with similar experience. However, they will need to go through training and certification by the International Commission on Health Care Certification (ICHCC) to practice as Certified Life Care Planner (CLCP).
Since this is a very sensitive field, a life care planner will need to renew their certification every five years. They will only be able to get approval for a renewed ICHCC after mandatory continuing education credits. They must take a minimum of 80 hours to earn these credits, and 8 of these hours need to be on ethics courses. The heavy regulation in this industry is key to ensuring that life care planners are both professional and ethical as they help you with a lot more than just rehabilitation. In fact, more often than not, life care planners are heavily involved in all aspects of the patient’s life and their immediate family.
Who needs a life care planner?
As we have mentioned, you may need a life care planner if you or your family member has been involved in a life-changing accident that led to permanent physical disability or permanent impairment such as a brain injury. However, life care planners can help in various situations.
Chronic Pain: Sometimes, injuries such spinal cord injury, facet joint disease or disc herniation diseases and other debilitating ailments can lead to reduced mobility, pain, and the need for lifelong assistance.
Multiple Trauma: Multiple injury scenarios can lead to significant disability that require frequent, often lifelong monitoring, medications, or surgery.
Spinal Cord Injury: This may be caused by an accident or work-related injury. Often a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to ensure all aspects are accounted for the remaining life expectancy of the injured party. Reduced mobility may need constant assistance and monitoring.
Acquired Brain Injury: Sometimes referred to as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), this type of injury can be a formidable challenge for life. The assistance of a professional life care planner can help ensure that quality of life and health care needs are met.
The four steps in life care planning
The importance of life care planning cannot be overstated. So much so that this plan is divided into four steps.
Step 1: Patient assessment
The first step in life care planning is an assessment of the patient. First, the life care planner will look at the cause of the injury and how severe it is. This way, they can determine how much care the patient will need. This will also determine the equipment needed to help in rehabilitation and adjusting to the new life that the patient will need to get accustomed to. Finally, the patient assessment will determine the kinds of renovations made around the home and car. This ensures the patient gains some sort of independence moving around. It also makes it easier for the life planner and the other family members to help the patient. Such renovations also play an important role in increasing the safety around the house for primarily the patient and, by extension, the rest of the family.
During patient planning, the goals for the patient will be set. If the goal is walking, things like physical therapy will be mapped out and the cost breakdown provided by the life care planner. As the goal is to return the patient as close to normalcy as possible, a breakdown of their hobbies will also be assessed. This will help determine which hobbies the patent can still do and help them discover new ones.
The patient's medical history will be assessed to determine if the patient has any allergies to the potential medicine they will take and also find the best course of action for the best possible outcome. But good life care planners often go a step further and determine the patient's motivational and social pillars so that they can work with the individuals during interventions and other similar scenarios.
Step 2: Planning with the patient
After the assessment, the life care planner will now plan with the patient and the family breaking down the requirements and the goals. The biggest question in this step is how the patient will achieve the goals set.
During this step, the life care planner will work on educating the patient and the family on all the things and situations that they may encounter. With proper education, the stigma associated with the patient’s condition is lessened. As the family learns to accept the situation, they will be more willing to help, encouraging the patient and showing them they are not alone.
Through properly educating the patient and the family, the life care planner indirectly creates an empathetic support system that understands the situation. A proper support system is always crucial during the recovery process. Patients with a better support system are more likely to recover quickly or adjust to the new normal.
Once the patient and the family are educated, and a support system is put in place, the next thing during this step is ensuring that the patient is ready both mentally and physically for the journey ahead of them. Helping them understand that it will not be easy and that they need to put in the work is crucial.
During this step, the life care planner will also determine the best methods and techniques, depending on the situation, to monitor, record, review and meet expectations. The reality is the patient may need to work with more people than just the life care planner. People like life coaches, speech pathologists, special educators and psychologists may be involved in the rehabilitation process. It is the work of the life care planner to come up with a plan on how to schedule the meetings, determine what kind of specialists are needed and how to monitor and record the progress in a systematic, accurate way.
Step 3: implementation
With proper planning in place, the next step is the implementation of the actions mentioned and planned. This is the make or break stage where the patient's progress will be determined. The life care planner will need help from all parties involved, from the patient to the family, stretching to the other specialists involved.
Step 4: Monitoring and review
Once the implementation process has started, monitoring and reviews should start almost immediately. As we mentioned early in this post, data analysis is one of the roles that the life care planner will do. During step four, they will collect said data and use it to improve the program while monitoring the progress. At this point, they may choose to do away with certain exercises or specialists and adjust the routine regimen to ensure the progress is steady and not strenuous or redundant.
Importance of a life care planner
Lifecare planners play an important role, not just to the patient but to the family as well, helping them adjust and accept the new situation. However, there are many other reasons why having a life care planner is important.
Legal recourse: In many situations where the patient suffered life-altering injuries, the family may need to seek legal recourse against the negligent party. In such a citation having a lawyer by your side is very important. However, going a step further and having a life care planner by your side can strengthen your case further. The data they collected and the first-hand information by a specialist in the field carries a lot of weight in a court of law.
Records: It is almost impossible to have current and accurate patient records if you rely on the scheduled doctor’s appointments. Furthermore, with no medical experience, it will be almost impossible to understand what records to make at home without a specialist like a life care specialist. Having proper records helps you better understand the progress and what therapies need to be changed.
Support: Sometimes, family support is not enough. Sometimes the family doesn't know how to support the patient properly. In some cases, this can lead to depression or worse. A life care planner can coach and help the family offer proper support to the patient. Furthermore, the life care planner can offer the family members themselves support and help them cope with the situation.
Long-term planning: Most of the time, it can be challenging for a family to hire a life care planner for a long time. It can be expensive, and sometimes the family may feel uncomfortable having someone who is not a member of the family constantly on their property. The life care planner will create a long-term plan for the family and the patient to follow, easing their financial burden and giving some independence to the patient.
Life care planners play an important role in a situation that anyone would dread. They have the experience and expertise to help you plan meticulously and ensure that the patient has a long, happy life.
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