Building Your Care Team After a Crisis

Whether we are 25 or 75, a health crisis can change life as we know it, seemingly overnight. Each individual has a unique web of interconnected relationships and needs that feed and shape their life. We all need social connection, healthcare, emotional support, food & shelter, etc. The impact of an injury or diagnosis can ripple out, leaving no aspect of life untouched. While there may be a great deal of anxiety and more questions than answers in the midst of a crisis, it is crucial to build a care team that can support you and your family. When we acknowledge and operate as though we are not alone in crisis, we have a greater chance of making good choices, creatively problem solve, and protect our mental and physical well-being.

When thinking of professionals for your care team, some may be given to you and others you may choose to invite. It is important to choose individuals who have had experience with other families dealing with:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias
  • Stroke
  • A Major Fall
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Diagnosis with a Chronic Illness Such as ALS or MS

While no one professional will have all the insights into the impact of the trauma on your life, a well-rounded care team will include different professionals who can look at the situation from a variety of viewpoints and work together to provide solutions and support. Here are just a few examples of professionals to consider adding to your care team. 

Primary Doctor: Your primary physician is going to be your home base of care and will refer you to specialists as well. Your primary doctor should be someone you can have a candid conversation with and trust. If you don’t feel supported or listened to by your doctor, get a new doctor. Just because they’ve been your primary doctor for everyday needs doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best fit for handling your particular health crisis. Share your concerns and goals and make sure they are a positive influence in your care.  

Specialist Doctors:  An expert in specific areas of healthcare, Specialist Doctors offer a high level of insight with a narrow scope. When dealing with certain health issues, seeing a Specialist can provide you with a more detailed diagnosis on a specific health condition. For instance, if your loved-one has been experiencing foot pain, their doctor might recommend seeing a Podiatrist.

Professional Care Manager: An RN (Registered Nurse) or MSW (Master's in Social Work) Care Manager is a vital leader of any care team and acts as an advocate for the family and a liaison between the many other professionals involved. A health crisis can send families into the healthcare maze with little more than a strategy of trial and error. Both in the setting hospital walls and during the transition home, it can be frightening for loved-ones to face the onslaught of decisions concerning immediate and long-term care needs, medications, therapy and follow-up appointments, home modifications, etc. Regardless of the type of crisis, the learning curve is always steep. A Professional Care Manager specializes in the care of aging and vulnerable adults. As experts, they are able to provide a care assessment of the individual and their home and create and manage a plan of care to help them transition and live safely with a high quality of life.

Occupational Therapist: According to The American Occupational Therapy Association, “occupational therapy assists people across the lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do through therapeutic use of everyday activities.” This is a particularly common therapy need for those recovering from physical and cognitive changes. When we talk about the recovery process, it is often the "everyday life" skills such as caring for personal hygiene, managing a household, or mobility that individuals work to recover first. These skills are helpful in rebuilding a routine and a new normal.   

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor: Vocational Rehab is really all about helping individuals who have suffered physical or cognitive trauma overcome barriers to maintaining or finding new employment. This counselor helps assess the current skills of the individual, works with their employer, and helps recover and adapt functionality for employment purposes. 

In-Home Caregiver:  For families, deciding how to meet the immediate and long-term care needs of their loved-one can be the most crucial and difficult decision they make. Can they live alone? Will the family be able to provide care? Often care facilities are thought of as solutions for care after severe trauma or in the end-stages of a chronic illness, but care within the home is a real possibility with the right team of professional caregivers. As Certified Nursing Assistants they are able to balance safety and independence, while providing the everyday care and activity assistance needed to support daily living. In Washington State, nurse delegation allows in-home caregivers to carry out more complicated care tasks as well such as catheter or feeding tube care, administering medications, or wound care. Be sure to choose a licensed and bonded home care agency when looking for in-home care options.

Financial Planner: During a crisis, finances are one of the most common sources of stress and change. For a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, a spouse or adult child may take over the role of finance manager to help pay bills and plan for long-term care expenses. For an individual with a brain injury, this may look like a professional Guardian or Trust Officer who is appointed to manage funds or a special needs trust for living and care expenses. Particularly when the severity of the injury necessitates long-term care, it is crucial to develop a financial plan that properly estimates and accommodates the care needs for the remainder of the individual's life.  

Mental Health Counselor: For individuals and family, a trauma can bring with it a significant amount of loss. According to Emilie E. Godwin, PhD, LPC, MFT, “Many survivors talk about being a different person before and after the injury. And many caregivers feel that way too. They’re taking on new roles, new responsibilities. And so the two people that are in a relationship after a brain injury are not really the same two people that were in the relationship before brain injury.” Getting mental health counseling from a professional that understands the dynamics of ambiguous loss after a trauma can help families and individuals process and grieve their current and future losses.   

Family & Friends: A crisis that changes a loved one overnight is disorienting and devastating for both family and friends. Even those who have close relationships often don’t know quite how to act, what to say, or how to help and show support. Part of staying connected to family, friends, and a community may mean educating them on the impacts and process of recovery as well as helping them engage in the grieving process. During a crisis it is natural to go into survival mode and with that, we can run the risk of self-isolation, especially when the chaos stretches over long periods of time. Make sure you include current family and friends in your care team and find others who have gone through similar challenges. They can help you remain connected and balanced as you find life after a trauma.  

If your family is going through a medical crisis, your care team starts with Sound Options. Our RN and MSW Care Managers and in-home caregivers collaborate to coordinate and provide all facets of care. Start getting the guidance you need with a 1-hour consult with a registered nurse or master of social work. 800.628.7649.     

Published on October 18, 2017.