Life Care Planning: What is the Foundation?

A Life Care Plan (LCP) is a dynamic document based on published standards of practice, assessment, and research which outlines future needs and costs for individuals with catastrophic injuries or chronic health needs. The LCP is an essential component of assessing future medical costs in litigated matters and offers a detailed road map for quantifying future damages. But, what is it based on? How do life care planners determine which goods and services to add to the plan, and how can we be sure that the plan neither overfunds nor underfunds future expenses?
 
Life Care Planning involves a specific procedure, governed by published best practices and generally accepted methodologies. An item listed in a LCP is considered a probable occurrence with a greater than 50% likelihood of occurring in the future. There are three main ways of determining whether to include an item in a LCP, and it is common practice to use one or more methods when building a plan. First, Life Care Planners carefully review available medical records paying particular attention to recommendations offered by treating physicians and independent medical examiners. If the recommendations are stated clearly with a likely onset date, frequency of occurrence, and duration of treatment, the item can be added to the plan if the provider is clear about the probability of occurrence. Unfortunately, most medical treatment notes lack one or more essential components when discussing treatment plans that prevent the simple population of the LCP.
 
A second and more common approach to researching a LCP is to communicate directly with the treating providers. The simplest method is to generate a comprehensive set of questions asking for specific recommendations, frequencies, and durations. The benefit of such an approach is the ability to ask detailed relevant questions of the treaters to cover most future medical scenarios. The challenge is that these written questionnaires can become quite long, which may dissuade busy providers from taking the time to reply. In many cases, an in-person or telephone conference can usually provide the necessary information needed by Life Care Planners and allows for follow-up questions and other queries to provide a richer plan.
 
Finally, Life Care Planners can turn to the literature to determine likely future medical needs. When using published research, it is important to ensure that the studies or publications involve a sufficient sample size of study participants who closely approximate the demographic qualities of the plan’s subject. For research to be relevant, publications should be recent, appear in peer-reviewed journals if available, and add important information regarding frequency, duration, and the probability of occurrence.
 
A thorough, defensible LCP is constructed using the best available information. However, the individual’s needs may change over time pending updated medical treatment information, the passage of time, or technological advancements. Therefore, it is important to remember the flexible, dynamic nature of the report and recognize that even the best plans are subject to change.
 
We offer complimentary consultations concerning "hypothetical matters."  To strategize with one of our experts at Stokes & Associates, please call David Barrett at 504-454-5009 or email dbarrett@stokes-associates.com.

Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Lacy Sapp, MHS, CRC, LPC, LRC, CLCP 
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP

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