Getting the highest quality care that will be the most effective and efficient takes time and planning. Even once you have decided on the type of care and the care provider, you still need to be prepared in order to make the most of it. The type of care you are receiving will determine the level or preparation needed, but in all cases, planning and being ready will ensure that you or your loved one receiving care will have the best possible outcome.

The Importance of Planning and Preparation

Not all types of care require much forward planning. A trip to urgent care for a few stitches, for instance, is a care situation in which you don’t give it much thought. You simply go to get the evaluation and treatment that you urgently need. Other types of care do require more planning because they are more involved, include numerous types of caregivers, therapies and treatment, are more long-term, and may have more serious outcomes if not planned well.

Planning for care may include many different elements. For an elderly relative you may need to make legal and financial plans for ongoing care. Mothers-to-be need to plan for the care they will receive as they go through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and beyond to ensure they have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Someone with no insurance or limited insurance may need extra planning for care to minimize the costs while still getting good care. Preparation may include moving, transitioning to different types of care, hiring caregivers, making decisions about treatment, and more.

Your Planning Tools

Start your care planning process by gathering together all the tools you need to begin. A big part of this should be information. You cannot make informed or good decisions about care without being educated. Gather together all the information about the illness or condition that you are planning care for, whether for you or for a loved one. Bring together resources online from your local library, from your doctor, and from non-profit and community organizations, such as the American Cancer Society or the American Diabetes Association.

Next, get all the documentation you’ll need for making care decisions: financial statements, health insurance information, medical records, and any necessary legal documents, such as power of attorney. Gather together anyone else who will be making decisions, such as your spouse or adult child or other caregivers if you are planning for a loved one. Together, come up with a list of questions about all aspects of care. Write down everything you can think of so you will be prepared later.

Finally, your toolkit for care preparation and planning needs to include the most recent medical records and diagnoses for the person receiving care. If you are planning for an older parent, for example, make sure he or she has been to the doctor recently and that you have followed up with all tests and screenings so that you have the most up-to-date information about the status of their health and any medical or mental health conditions.

Care Plan Meetings and the Care Team

Once you have laid all the preparatory ground work by gathering all the materials you need, it’s time to assemble and meet with a care team. The care team should include anyone who will be involved in making decisions about care or who is providing expert advice. While doctors and other professionals may not be able to be present for every meeting you have as a family or caregiver group, you should at least have some meetings in which everyone is involved.

An initial meeting that includes the decision makers and doctors is crucial. This meeting will ensure that you and others understand the diagnosis and the outlook for the person receiving care. It will also give everyone a chance to ask the medical professionals important questions about care and the patient’s needs. The doctor or other caregivers are there to answer questions, to outline the treatment and care the patient needs, and to give the care team options for making a care plan.

Putting the Plan in Action

After an initial meeting involving all team members involved in giving advice and making decisions, you can begin to outline the care plan. This is when you put together all the information you have and the choices you have made for care and take concrete steps toward getting that care. For instance, your care team may have decided that your mother’s best option for care is a nursing home. You then worked together to determine what her insurance will cover and what you can afford beyond that coverage. You outlined her specific needs and the things you have to have in a nursing home. Your next step is to find that perfect facility.

Transitions in Care – What to Expect

For cases of long-term care, such as an aging parent or a family member with a progressive brain disease, like Alzheimer’s, you will need to make your care plan an ongoing and changing document. Expect that there will be changes in the patient’s needs, in the type of care provided, and in the caregivers utilized. There will be transitions that have to be decided upon and implemented.

First, be aware that transitions in care often need advanced planning. You may need to plan finances again, make legal decisions, and even plan for a move to a completely new facility. A transition in care may also require referrals from doctors or updated medical or mental health evaluations. Make sure you are aware of all the necessities of making care changes so you can plan ahead and ensure they go smoothly for everyone.

Making decisions about and finding good care is not always easy, but what makes it all go smoothly is good preparation and excellent planning. When the well-being of a loved one depends on it, attention to detail and being prepared are so important. Planning means you lower the risk of making poor decisions and increase the odds that your loved one will receive the best care and will have the best possible outcome.