What Is a Life Care Planner and Why Do I Need One?
Life care planners are certified professionals in fields as diverse as nursing, rehabilitation and other health-related fields. Some life care planners also have life care planning (CLCP) certifications from the Commission on Health Care Certification. These certified professionals help families and injured patients develop a long-term plan to deal with the many challenges of being seriously injured or disabled.
Life care planners take a look at medical records, patient interviews, and other sources. They also rely on their own health background and conduct independent research to come up with the best long-term plan for patients who have been seriously injured.
What Is the Description of a Life Care Planner?
Certified life care planners have worked for several years in other medical areas before moving into the field. They are often registered nurses or nurse practitioners but can include medical providers who also worked in other areas such as:
- Physical therapists
- Rehab counselors
- Occupational therapists
- Medical doctors
- Speech pathologists
- Special education professionals
- Social workers, in some cases
A workers’ compensation or Social Security benefits attorney can help you select a life care planner who understands what you or an injured worker you are caring for needs to help them now and in the future. They will know life care planners who will have excellent communications skills, can help guide an injured worker or a family to making solid decisions about healthcare and financial needs, and know how to adjust a plan for an injured worker when necessary.
Why Choose a Life Care Planner?
If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury in a work-related accident, for example, workers’ compensation benefits, along with some Social Security benefits, can help relieve some of the financial burdens of dealing with such a serious injury. The same is true if you have suffered a serious illness because of work-related exposure to things such as toxic chemicals like asbestos or radiation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of deaths and disabilities each year. Every day, an average of 166 people in the United States die from TBI injuries. Each year, 80,000 to 90,000 people undergo the onset of a long-term disability because of TBI. These individuals often have to contend with profound long-term impairments such as memory loss, cognitive difficulties, paralysis or decreased mobility, loss of hearing or vision and personality changes.
Additionally, the World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people worldwide have workplaces that expose them to asbestos, which results in 107,000 deaths annually from mesothelioma and other lung complications.
Unfortunately, dealing with the health and financial issues that accompany such serious injuries or illnesses can be overwhelming for both the injured individual and their families. Experienced workers’ comp or Social Security benefits attorneys can help clarify legal issues and file claims to make sure the injured or sick parties receive the benefits to which they are entitled, but longer-term planning is often needed.
This is how a life care planner can be helpful. An overwhelmed family may not be thinking clearly about long-term medical needs or rehabilitation. A life care planner can help create a plan that will deal with financial and healthcare needs for the remainder of the patient’s life.
Sometimes in the case of very serious illness or injury, this may only be a few months. In other cases, it may last a few years. When younger workers have suffered TBIs, the plan may need to cover decades.
What Are the Top Reasons to Hire a Life Care Planner?
Many injured workers who suffered serious injuries or illnesses may not have thought about enlisting the services of a life care planner. Here are some of the signs that indicate you may need to work with a life care planner:
- The spouse or family member who is acting as the primary caregiver to an injured worker is suffering from health problems, burnout, guilt, confusion or frustration.
- An injured worker and their family are overwhelmed with options about healthcare and are unsure of what their next decision should be or where they can get help.
- The injured worker has suffered a TBI or another serious injury or illness.
- The injured worker is seriously disabled but has no spouse or children who can help provide supplemental healthcare assistance.
- An injured worker who has suffered a TBI begins to show cognitive changes that their families may not know how to deal with.
- The injured worker is concerned about how they and their families will pay for medical care now and in the future.
- The injured worker has been hospitalized, and their family has been informed that returning home may not be an option.
- The injured worker and their family disagree about what the best options are for healthcare.
- The injured worker and their family disagree about how to allocate financial resources.
How Does a Life Care Planner Prepare a Plan?
Life care planners are normally experienced registered nurses or other medical providers who have worked in the healthcare system for several years before pursuing this career. They are often familiar with the healthcare needs of a variety of patients.
When a life care planner creates a plan for an injured worker they base their plan on a number of different factors:
- The kind of injury. While it is a good idea to work with a life care planner when coping with the TBI or serious illness, life care planners can often help with many other injuries that require long-term care.
- The severity of the injury. One of the long-term goals of life care planners is to help the injured individual recover as much independence as possible. This is both physically and mentally healthy for the injured worker and for their family. How quick that level of independence can be achieved depends upon the severity of the injury and how much physical and mental therapy may be needed.
- Financial needs. A life care planner will interview the injured worker’s doctors and other medical providers, as well as their family members to come up with a realistic picture of what the financial needs for the family will be in terms of both medical and non-medical costs. Often life care planners will turn to medical economists to help them determine what an individual needs to cover these costs over the duration of their injury or illness.
- The needs, wants and abilities of the injured worker and their family. This is very much an individual analysis. A young, unmarried single worker with no children will have different needs than an injured worker with a spouse and four children. A life care planner can help realistically determine a family’s ability to care for an injured or sick worker. A young injured worker who only has older parents to provide care will likely have different long-term care needs than the married injured worker with the family. Still, in some cases, the families of injured workers will be able to provide excellent supplemental care, while in other cases, it may be more difficult for them to do so.
Healthcare planners may work from a template, but no two life care plans are the same. Every family is different, and every injured worker is different. The needs of the injured worker and their family may change over time as well, so it is important to know that no plan is written in stone — life care planners understand that what an injured worker and their family needs today may be different in the future. It is the life care planner’s job to create a plan that addresses each family’s individual needs.
When dealing with something like a traumatic brain injury, life care planners can help find resources about and develop a plan for:
- Expected needs for medical devices
- Future evaluations and therapies
- Educational assessments
- Diagnostic testing and lab work
- Future expected needs for supplies and medical items
- Care needs related to assisted living facilities or home care
- Expected future medical care
- Expected items needed, including any home modifications or furnishings required to adapt to an injury
- Any renovations required for the patient’s home or car
- Arranging transportation needs
- Arranging leisure or recreation, including any specialized equipment needed
- A plan for encouraging independence in the patient
Essentially, a life care planner helps the patient and their family decide what steps they need to take and what they need to think about as they adjust to life with a long-term injury.
Ultimately, life care plans are designed to achieve these main goals:
- To ensure the injured worker receives appropriate medical care whether at home or in a medical facility.
- While workers’ compensation or Social Security benefits may pay for some of the costs, life care planners can help identify other private and public sources of funding to help alleviate medical expenses.
- To help an injured worker and their family find peace of mind knowing that they have made smart choices about the present and the future, choices that ensure proper medical care while preserving family resources.
How Can a Life Care Planner Help Me With My Workers’ Compensation or My Social Security Disability Claim?
For people who have sustained a serious head injury or who are suffering from a serious illness, a life care planner can be an invaluable resource. Many patients may not consider their long-term needs. A life care planner can encourage a patient and their family to deal with some of the issues affecting TBI or serious illness patients, allowing a patient to transition more smoothly into their new life following an injury.
If you have been injured on the job, and you decide to pursue a traumatic head injury claim, a life care planner can help with a workers’ compensation claim. The information that a life care planner assembles can be presented in court when pursuing a claim. For example, if the patient seeks compensation to pay for future medical care, the life care planner’s assessment of the level of services needed can help a court fully appreciate life with the injury.
That is because a life care planner will talk to all the various medical providers involved in your care to prepare an assessment of what your medical and financial needs for care may be in the future. Life care planners look at the initial treatment you received for your injury, how you responded to those treatments, what the long-term goal is for your treatment, future evaluations and potential treatment complications.
When a life care planner prepares the document to assist with a workers’ compensation or Social Security disability claim, they will also look at concerns such as what medical equipment the injured worker may need, how that equipment will be supplied, whether there are any safety issues with the equipment, recreational needs, how a health plan may need to change as the injured worker ages and many more such issues.
As we noted above, a life care planner can then work with a medical economist to help determine a more accurate figure for those costs. When you present your estimates to your employer’s insurance company, you will have a much better picture of just what you will need to ask for in terms of medical care now and in the future.
The end result is normally a 40-50 page document that can be used in evidence when making a claim.
Life care planners can also help with Social Security disability claims. The same kind of evidence that they prepare for a workers’ compensation claim can also be used when applying for Social Security disability benefits. When preparing either one of these claims, medical evidence plays a key role in determining the success of a claim. When you can show a workers’ compensation judge or a Social Security disability administrative law judge concrete medical evidence of your disability and its effects on you and your family, it will go a long way toward your being granted benefits.
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, workplace injuries and illnesses are a major cause of disability in the United States, and the payments needed to help people who have become disabled because of work injuries are substantial. Every year, state workers’ compensation programs disburse almost $60 billion in cash and medical care reimbursements to help pay for medical treatment and other critical needs for workers who have sustained disabilities.
How Are Life Care Planners Evaluated and Certified?
Certified life care planners receive their certification through the International Commission on Health Care Certification (ICHCC). The certification process assesses the life care planner’s understanding of health care systems, catastrophic disabilities, and the treatment and care protocols necessary to help people with profound, life-altering illnesses or injuries maintain a good quality of life.
Certified life care planners are required to renew their certification every five years by completing mandatory continuing education credits. They must take a minimum of 80 of these credits over the five years, and eight of those hours must consist of ethics courses.
Additionally, life care planners who have worked as registered nurses for at least two years in the field of long-term care and held their licenses for three can become certified nurse life care planners, or CNLCPs. This process takes place through the Nurse Life Care Planner Certification Board (NLCPCB). These professionals must take continuing education courses as well.
By continuing their education and keeping their certification current, certified life care planners ensure that they stay abreast of developments in the legal and health care fields and can continue providing informed and compassionate care and advice. Working with a life care planner means working with someone who maintains up-to-date knowledge and training to help provide patients with the best possible quality of life.
Where Can I Find a Life Care Planner?
Start by asking your attorney to help you find a life care planner. Some law firms actually employ life care planners on staff or work with them regularly. Otherwise, you can find them at hospitals, healthcare clinics, rehabilitation centers, physical therapy centers, nursing homes or working in hospice care. Your health insurance company may also employ certified life care planners and may cover the costs of them working with you.
Learn More About the Importance of Life Care Planning
Working with a life care planner can be a great help to an injured worker with a traumatic brain injury and to their family. A life care planner can help the worker or their family prepare for the financial and medical challenges that lie ahead as well as physical and emotional challenges. Many injured workers and their families, however, may not be familiar with the concept of using a life care planner. That is why contacting an experienced attorney at KBG injury Law is a great first step.
If you would like to know more about life care planners and head injury claims, contact KBG Injury Law. Our law offices in Pennsylvania work with clients from all backgrounds to help them pursue compensation and their best possible life after their injury.
If you are interested in a free consultation, call us at 800-509-1011 or visit our contact us page — you can leave us your contact information and some details about your situation and your interest in working with a life care planner. A member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.