Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Eight Steps to Future Care Planning for a Loved One with Special Needs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Eight Steps to Future Care Planning for a Loved One with Special Needs

Article excerpt

A child with disabilities requires special care now and in the future, but because there is so much to handle in the here and now, many parents and caregivers put off proper planning. They say, "I'll do it tomorrow," and before you know it many "tomorrows" have passed, the future is here, and little or no planning has occurred. Now what? How are clothing expenses going to be paid? Where will a family find affordable housing with supportive services for their loved one with special needs? What transportation is available? How does one put in place a care plan that will provide a full and rewarding life, yet still provide the safety net that needs to be in place? These are all important questions that need to be answered when a child is younger, rather than when he or she transitions into adulthood or when a parent/guardian passes away.

From education and housing to work and recreation, it can be overwhelming to think about all that needs to be done to develop a plan, making sure every aspect of life is covered. But if you take it one step at a time, it will get done. By this time next year, you can enter the holiday season with your mind at ease, knowing you have begun to put a future care plan in place. Just follow the simple steps below. It takes action on your part, but if you stay committed to the timetable and persevere, the result will be a comprehensive future care plan.

I did it. As a matter of fact, I developed this eight-step process to help my parents plan for my sister, who was born with cerebral palsy. I watched my parents struggle with little help to plan her future. I noticed the families I work with professionally facing the same kind of fear, confusion, and stress, so I wanted to develop a process that would work for other families who have a loved one with special needs. Over the years, it evolved to touch all aspects of life: family communication, legal considerations, potential government benefits, transition into adulthood, residential options, employment opportunities, recreational choices, and investment solutions. And with every step, the abilities of the individual with special needs are considered more than his or her disabilities, no matter the age. Let's get started.

Step 1

November/December 2008: Access Candidly

As you enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, make an honest assessment of future care needs in light of the entire family's make-up and financial situation. This may be the first time many families address head-on their dreams, goals, and fears for their loved one with special needs, but it's worth taking some time to think through it. What better time to do it than when families are reflecting on fond memories and making plans for the new year! It's the first big step in starting to recognize the work you must do to achieve peace of mind.

Step 2

January 2009: Organize Thoroughly

At the start of the new year, most people are in organizing mode. It's the perfect time to identify all life needs for your loved one with a developmental disability, including a quality living environment, educational supports, medical needs and a wellness program, and recreational activities based upon the child's ability to support himself or herself in the future. The family develops a vision of what they see for the individual in the different stages of life. Then, quantify, through various calculations, a cash flow for the entire lifetime of the individual on your and their vision. Seek out a qualified financial planner to assist in this step if you're uncomfortable working with numbers. Stay committed to refining this Future Map each year, as the individual with special needs gets older and an understanding of his or her future needs are more apparent.

Step 3

February/March 2009: Explore Legal Options

Legal considerations are an important part of the process. Certain legal documents are critical and can assist in speeding up or slowing down care for your loved one. …

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