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Ask an Expert –What is a life care plan?
What is a life care plan?
A life care plan is a document put into place to support a loved one who will need care support beyond your ability to support them yourself. If you know that they will need a care giver or support team if you become disabled or are no longer living, a life care plan can be your letter of wishes and instructions to help your loved one continue their life with fewer disruptions.
A life care plan should be drafted for any dependent child, regardless their age, a spouse, or a sibling who you support daily or periodically. A life care plan is a narrative of all the things that you do for your loved one. Ideally you would include every aspect of your loved one’s life that they cannot communicate to a new caregiver. It serves a roadmap of how to step in as support and a reminder of well-established routines. Instruction on how to get your loved one to their scheduled activities, what they enjoy, things they don’t enjoy, medical doctors, medications, and any other instruction on their life should be included if you want to see them continue. Information on preferences of diet, clothing, favorite music, spots to visit, and chairs to sit in can all be included in the plan. A well-rounded life care plan also includes contact information for important relationships in your life that you want to see continue beyond your ability to support your loved one.
A life care plan should be used to inform both your financial plan and your loved one’s. Care giving expectations can be translated into a dollar amount and projected to include the expected life of your loved one. Activities or date nights should be budgeted for, but the biggest expenses will be the care team itself.
You can work on your own to draft this support document, but we would encourage you to include more people in the process. Get feedback on if it makes sense. There will be blind spots in your draft that could use clarification because you forget all of the things you do to support your loved one. Share your document with your financial planner and attorney and make sure it is clear on what your expectations are from them to share the document with the future support team. And as with your financial and estate plans, review your life care plan on a regular basis (1-5 years) to make sure the needs of your loved one haven’t changed significantly.
A life care plan is not a legal document but can be used to inform decisions made within your estate planning. If you make clear your wishes in the life care plan, you are helping both your loved one and the whole care team know that they are continuing the life design that you helped to build with them.
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