Individualized Care Planning for In Home Caregivers

September 29, 2015

At the most basic level, we’re all very similar. It’s these similarities that care providers learn about during their training and include things like caloric requirements, physiology, and genetics. That said, it is the factors that set each of us apart from the crowd that pose the real challenges to providing outstanding in-home senior care. Dietary requirements, specific disabilities, hygiene preferences, mood, personality and so forth must all be considered when determining how to deliver exceptional care to an individual. The following is a look at how to avoid the “one-size-fits-all” method of care planning and to instead engage in comprehensive, individualized home care, or person centered senior care planning.   

Life History 

Every in-home caregiver should get to know who their client really is off-paper.  An understanding of a person’s daily routines, strengths, interests, food preferences, and other personal information is critical to personalized care and demonstrates that you’re truly interested in more than simply the client’s diagnosis. These details reflect who a person is and provide the foundation for constructing an effective senior care plan and getting a feel for what it will be like working with them. On the surface, gathering this information and incorporating it into a care plan may seem like more effort than it is worth. However, accommodating individual needs and making sure the senior is a valued part of the care planning process is certain to improve mood and ease the care giver’s job over time by developing camaraderie, trust, and a sense of teamwork between a senior caregiver and their client. Respecting a senior’s lifestyle preferences and putting their needs ahead of your own is part of the job. 

 Physical Requirements 

In Home Caregiver helping senior lady Getting a clear picture of how well a client can walk, dress, use the toilet, and eat is critical to a senior client’s comfort. Understanding physical requirements and limitations can also make the caregiver’s life easier by allowing him or her to plan ahead. For instance, knowing that a senior has difficulty toileting should prompt you to ask periodically, avoiding humiliating accidents and the associated clean-up that follows. It also reduces the chances of injury or infection and thus long-term complications. Discuss flexibility limitations, range of motion or whether any type of movement causes discomfort or pain and make sure you’re considering these in your approach when providing assistance.  This will save time, make your client more comfortable through the care process and reduce the opportunity for injury.  If your client is entirely dependent on you for assistance with mobility, transferring or adjusting in bed, make sure that you’re physically capable of providing this.  If they honestly require two people for this type of assistance, DO NOT attempt to move them independently!  Improper attempts to assist a senior with physical limitations can not only result in tragic injury to your client, but also to yourself.  Though these details may seem like minutiae, they are vital to understanding your senior’s care needs and planning correctly will have the largest long-term impact on a patient’s health care and life quality. 

Mood, Cognition and Mental Health 

Gaining details about an individual’s cognitive state, mental health and common moods can be difficult due to the sensitive nature of the subjects. That said, knowing how a person will react to certain situations, what their decision making limitations are, whether they are generally positive or negative, and how their mental state may fluctuate over time is critical to providing personalized care. Cognitive decline, memory problems and mood disorders are, perhaps, the most difficult problems to deal with and those that are most likely to cause challenges in the patient-provider relationship. Being able to anticipate a patient’s mood or likely reaction ahead of time can help to eliminate surprises and “knee-jerk” response on the part of the senior caregiver.  Understanding these factors can help a caregiver develop a plan that includes effective interventions or diversions when a senior exhibits challenging or sometimes dangerous behavior and also reduce or limit the potential for stimulus that might cause them.  It also provides a valuable “barometer” that might indicate a change in condition when you notice a deviation from the norm.   

Medical Needs 

Medical needs tend to be the easiest for an in home caregiver to plan for because they are the most structured and diagnosis based. That said, details like how willing a patient is to accept medication, how the patient prefers to take a medication, what approach to take with certain complex procedures, what medical goals have been set, and so forth are instrumental to good medical care. A patient can’t reach her medical goals if she won’t take her medications, so knowing that she prefers milk, rather than water, to swallow her pills can make all of the difference in the world.  If a senior routinely refuses or “cheeks” medications or is resistant to certain processes, learn and incorporate the most effective approaches or interventions into the care plan. It’s important to consult with your client’s loved one and also their care provider if possible.  They can provide the most accurate information regarding your client’s medical condition and how to best care plan around them.  Regular communication with those responsible for your client’s care is vital to ensure everyone is aware of current conditions and concerns.  Deviations from the norm can be a red flag of a change in condition that should be addressed immediately.  Also understanding how these factors impact one another plays a role in how you care plan and schedule the day.  For example it would not be effective to schedule a physical rehab session immediately following regularly scheduled medications that cause drowsiness.     

Developing an Individualized Care Plan 

In the end, the point of an individualized care plan is to make providing care as effective and safe for both the senior and the senior caregiver as possible. In fact, the individualized plan may be more beneficial to the caregiver than the client by making it possible to navigate the personal quirks and preferences that everyone has and allowing them to be more effective. When constructing a senior care plan, the most important question a provider can ask is how he or she would want to be treated if suddenly put in the patient’s position. It’s the old “Golden Rule.” You learn it when you’re young, but it’s applicable to almost every situation throughout life. Apply tips listed here as well as the golden rule to the construction of individualized care plan and you’ll create a richer, more rewarding care experience for you and your senior care clients.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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