A basic model of an advance plan for the care of children in the event of mental illness relapse should include the elements listed below.
- Dates, names, and contact info: List the people named in the agreement and their phone numbers. List the people to be informed about the agreement. The date is important because this agreement should be reviewed frequently as the information may change quickly.
- Purpose: The purpose of this agreement is to provide a clear set of guidelines for actions to be taken by members of the support system if the parent exhibits symptoms of the illness which interfere with the parent's ability to provide good care for the child.
- Symptoms: List the symptoms that the parent making the agreement would like others to notice and respond to, and describe the most helpful way to respond. Often it is the children who first notice a worsening of symptoms in the parent and they need to know how to get help quickly.
- Communication: Record how the writer would like to deal with the issue of confidentiality, and attach signed consents if desired. Even with consent, no more information than is necessary for the implementation of the Agreement should be shared. The action plan can describe who the writer would like contacted, the order of response, as well as instructions about treatments or medications that have been helpful in the past.
- Plan of action: Record the parent's wishes for support services.
- Child care information: Record the parent's wishes regarding the care of their child(ren), including any information about allergies, special needs, favourite foods or toys, daily routines, and so on. Top of page
- Involvement of the children: Children can be a valuable resource to include in the agreement, where possible. They are often well aware of their parent's symptoms and, depending on their age, could be the first to get the Agreement plan into action when necessary. Involving children appropriately can increase their sense of security as well as their compliance with the Agreement.
- Cancellation: Describe the manner in which the Agreement can be cancelled. The purpose of the Agreement is so that it cannot be easily cancelled when the parent is actually ill, so it is wise to set up a process of cancellation that requires a period of time and a set of steps (note: this may pose a problem for some professionals who are unable to enter an agreement that does not allow for cancellation within a shorter specified time. It should be noted that this is an informal rather then a legally binding document, based on the good intentions to prevail, and wording to that effect may be included).
- Periodic review: Describe the manner in which the Agreement will be reviewed (at least annually is recommended, as well as after each time the Agreement is put into action). At the review, a copy of the Agreement should be given to everyone named in it, and each person should be clear about his or her role. A meeting can be helpful to introduce the people in the support network to each other and to allow everyone to express their care, concern and support for the family.