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When you or your family member have special needs, even just those temporary needs which come with recovering from an operation or a fall, you need the support of a team. No one can do it all.

There are doctors and therapists. There may be a case manager or a home health aide.

There may be a family member or two who provide informal or stand-by uncompensated support.

There may be volunteer services such as Meals-on-Wheels or Drive a Senior or convenience services such as meal or pharmacy delivery services.

Team members need to know there IS a team

In order for our team to work well, the team members must know that there is a team, who is on it and what their roles are. Many hands make light work. An overarching vision, coordination and communication can help keep things from falling through the cracks.

What team members need to know

We need to share an overview of needs and our vision for the present and for the future. This lets our team members point out emerging or possible future needs we have not thought of. It lets them think about their roles and what they can realistically commit to. This will change over time. If a niece is getting married in the spring, her mother may be able to commit less time in the months leading up to the wedding. If a case manager is going back to school, planning for overlap between her and the new case manager can help keep our team function smoothly.

Our team members need to know our benefit and insurance status. Someone may be assigned to make sure that applications and reimbursement forms are submitted timely.

Someone else may be in charge of getting competitive quotes for the equipment and services we need. If that person is the case manager, they may also get professional recommendations for equipment, home modifications or other large purchases. Someone else can arrange for the equipment to be installed and the ramp, grab bars or other home modifications to be made.

Who is named the agent?

Our team members need to know who is named the agent under a Durable Power of Attorney. That person can pay the bills when we cannot.

Our team members need to know who is named the agent under a Medical Power of Attorney. We may want to name many people on a HIPAA Medical Information Release, allowing medical providers to share information with them. But the person named on a Medical Power of Attorney is the one who will speak for us when we cannot.

Our team members need to know that they are appreciated.

Other Resources for People with Special Needs

For a comprehensive list of resources for people with special needs and more, click here: Resource listing for people with special needs and their families 

People with special needs can be included and lead meaningful lives with the right services and support. We can help. This article has helpful information: What’s So Special About Special Needs?



Estate Planning attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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