As I mentioned in my August newsletter, there are many questions that frequently arise during a major transition in a person’s physical and/or mental health. These discussions need to take place among family members for future planning. Nobody can predict how an individual and their family will cope when faced with the onset of a disability or chronic illness.

Likewise, someone currently experiencing cognitive or physical impairments cannot anticipate whether his or her existing symptoms will worsen over time. In either scenario, it is prudent to have a plan that includes the services, supports and measures necessary for that person’s safety.  
New challenges associated with a disability or debilitating illness can leave a person and their family confused and overwhelmed. They may experience varying degrees of fear, frustration, anger, isolation and uncertainty, especially during the initial stages. They ask questions like, “What roles do we need to now play? “ or “What direction should we be taking?” or “Who can guide us onto the right path?” These are only a few questions that families ask when trying to assess how they are going to navigate the journey ahead of them.
When faced with many different options, they are usually uncertain about which one to pursue. They need an accurate compass that points them in the right direction so they can avoid the many pitfalls and obstacles ahead. Some examples are: full or partial employment loss, reduced household income, family strife, little or no social life, inadequate or no knowledge of resources or services and limited support network. Facing the complex challenges of a disability requires specific strategies that save both a family  time and money. When implemented properly, these strategies provide a measure of relief from the inherent stress and anxiety associated with a life altering disability or illness. Here are three important strategies:
1.    Choose ONLY supports and services that are suitable for the individual . Those may include: Personal Caregivers, homemaking services, adaptive equipment, rehabilitative services, structured day programs and/or appropriate support groups. Careful research and screening of services and providers should be a high priority to ensure the person’s health and safety. This helps avoid wasting money on services or providers that are either unscrupulous unnecessary. Since this process is very time consuming, it is advisable to have a professional who can make credible referrals and screen providers.

2.     Evaluate their cost. Comparative costs should be assessed, especially if the funding comes from a trust or estate. A comprehensive budget should be carefully designed and periodically adjusted when needed. You will save money over the long run by you or someone familiar with specific services and providers do the research. The budget can be a separate document or incorporated into a Customized Support Plan (see October 2016 newsletter).

3.     Strategies for implementation. Written objectives, goals, and measurement of goals should be clearly defined. The person receiving care and family members should know how to apply and utilize the services and supports they have chosen. Careful implementation will result in reduced stress and anxiety when their loved one needs them the most.   

Like any important life event, developing strategies is essential for accomplishing your goals and ensuring the success of that event. The same principle applies to designing a detailed plan for a loved one with a disability or chronic illness who currently or will require vital services and supports. Planning before a major health event will save a family time and money and result in greater peace of mind.