Future care planning can be difficult for aging parents and caregivers of people with serious mental illness (SMI). An article in Psychiatric Services in Advance describes the important role that mental health professionals can play in helping families to prepare for the future.
“Just as mental health professionals guide parent caregivers to facilitate medication adherence and prevent relapses for a child with serious mental illness, they should also routinely take the lead in discussing and cocreating a future care plan [when caregivers and patients are older],” wrote Thanapal Sivakumar, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bengaluru, India, and colleagues.
Sivakumar and colleagues offer recommendations for mental health professionals on when to begin planning for future care, who should participate in this planning, and what should be included in a future care plan for the plan to be successful. The recommendations include the following:
- Begin working on a future care plan while parents are in good health. The authors noted that developing a future care plan will likely require multiple meetings between mental health professionals and families, and needs may change over time.
- Facilitate conversations between parents, patients, and prospective caregivers so that everyone feels heard. The authors wrote that these conversations may help to identify life skills that patients may need to develop and help mental health professionals triage patients to appropriate services to support this development.
- Consider patients’ needs related to food and housing, health services, social support, transportation, insurance, and finances, and work with families to identify how they might share the responsibilities related to these needs in the future.
The authors noted that mental health professionals should take the lead in collaborating with parents, patients, and others to facilitate future care planning. “This initiative will provide a sense of relief to parents that their son or daughter will be cared for after their lifetime while ensuring that the [patient] has the best chance to manage the transition successfully,” they wrote.
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Mobile App Helps People With SMI Create Crisis Plan.”