The Life Care Plan: Projecting Future Needs after Catastrophic Illness or Injury


Contributed by:
Angela Heitzman, MA, CRC, CLCP, MSCC
Heitzman Rehabilitation, LLC

Jodi was a high school teacher in rural Minnesota at the time of her motor vehicle collision in 2009. While driving down the highway Jodi’s car was broadsided on the passenger side by a semi truck as it crossed the highway. Jodi had to be extricated from her vehicle and air-lifted to the nearest trauma center where work began to save her crushed right ankle and foot. After several unsuccessful surgeries, the decision was made to amputate her leg. Because Jodi lived alone in an old, inaccessible farm house, it was necessary for her to move in temporarily with her sister and her family. The loss of her leg and the dependence that it engendered was a challenge for this independent woman.

When Jodi’s attorney referred her to Heitzman Rehabilitation for development of a Life Care Plan it became clear that one of the more important aspects of the plan would be to return Jodi to a home of her own, where she could live independently. The services of Accessibility Design were retained to develop options for either purchasing and remodeling an existing home or building a new home that would accommodate a wheelchair.

Appropriate housing is one piece of a life care plan. A life care plan addresses all aspects of care, including therapies, routine medical care, labs, radiology, surgeries, equipment, supplies, medications, mobility needs, transportation, supportive care, housing, health maintenance and educational and vocational services. In Jodi’s case, future needs include items such as prostheses, walking aids, manual wheelchair, physical therapy, and disability adjustment counseling. The plan is meant to be a living document, flexible enough to change with the individual’s current condition/status, and grounded in sound medical practice.

  • To identify future care needs and provide a blueprint for those needs
  • To determine anticipated life-long costs for assistance in settling a claim
  • To educate the injured or ill person regarding steps necessary to maintain health and avoid complications
  • To use cost information in setting claim reserves or guiding implementation of Special Needs Trust

In the development of a life care plan the planner will review medical records; interview the individual and her/his family and caregivers; contact treating health care providers or retained medical experts to verify needs; identify items/services the person will likely need; research costs of services, equipment, procedures, medications, and supplies, along with frequency, duration and replacement rates; conduct medical research including review of clinical practice guidelines, standards of care, and best practices; and develop an individualized plan that will help minimize health complications. Each life care plan is tailored to a specific individual. Life care plans are meant to be objective; the plan should provide for the care necessary to allow the person to return to a productive, safe, and complication-free life.


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