What is a Life Care Plan & Who Needs One?

Life Care Plans

As defined by the International Academy of Life Care Planners in their standards of practice, “the life care plan is a dynamic document based upon published standards of practice, comprehensive assessment, data analysis and research, which provides an organized, concise plan for current and future needs with associated cost for individuals who have experienced catastrophic injury or have chronic health care needs.”[1] For example, when individuals have suffered a brain injury or stroke, it can be catastrophic and require quite a bit of specialized and diverse care. Individuals’ needs are varied, and they often require services from many professionals in different specialties such as neurologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists.


Life care plans provide a detailed view of the various needs of the individual and are frequently a collaborative effort, incorporating the recommendations of various healthcare providers. For example, a doctor may recommend certain diagnostic tests, lab work, medications, and surgeries during the course of the individual’s life, while a neuropsychiatrist’s evaluation may identify cognitive and behavioral deficits which require a change in educational and vocational training and/or other therapeutic interventions throughout the life span. Life care plans are used in workers’ compensation claims, civil litigation, mediation, reserve setting for insurance companies, discharge planning, Medicare set-asides, elder care, and other arenas[2].


Who Needs Life Care Planning?

An individual who suffers from a catastrophic injury or illness will often benefit from a life care plan. This can include individuals that have suffered traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, burns, electrical injury, and complex orthopedic injuries. Someone may also suffer from a combination of injuries, such as an individual involved in serious motor vehicle accidents, who may have a traumatic brain injury as well as a spinal cord injury and/or additional orthopedic issues.


Individuals with chronic pain, those that have undergone organ transplant, or have visual or other sensory impairments, or who have psychiatric disorders resulting from traumatic events, may also benefit from life care planning. It is especially helpful for children who are born with or develop lifelong disabilities shortly after birth, as care for this population evolves as they age with their disability.


Each life care plan addresses current and future care by considering what the individual will need to live as optimally and as healthy as possible. A life care planner needs to take into consideration how an individual will age with their disability. Therefore, a life care plan is a dynamic document that is updated throughout the individual’s life to reflect any changes in their medical, rehabilitative, and psychological needs. Ultimately, the plans delineate when the individual will need the items or services, how frequently they will need them and what they will cost. An effective life care plan provides a detailed view of the varied and complex needs of individuals living with chronic illnesses or recovering from catastrophic injuries.

[1] “Life Care Planning FAQ”, International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals, accessed October 12, 2020, https://connect.rehabpro.org/lcp/about/new-item/new-item.

[2] https://connect.rehabpro.org/lcp/about/new-item/new-item5.