If you have a loved one who has become ill and you find yourself in the role of instant caregiver, it can be overwhelming. Your life changes in ways you did not expect. It is important that you set up protections for both yourself and your loved one to prevent problems when emergencies arise. Here are some common legal tips for caregivers.
her long term if the need arises.
Decision Making Ability
It is important to understand your loved ones decision making abilities. Many caregivers see this as an all or nothing and it’s not that simple. Most people who need caregivers retain the ability to understand and facilitate many aspects of their lives. They need to continue to do so for as long as they can.
In addition, some types of decision making may be difficult while others are not. For example, a parent may have the ability to make her own day to day decisions regarding food, exercise, clothing, etc but be unable to understand her financial situation.
It is very important that caregivers truly assess where their family member’s cognitive ability lies. This is critical to establishing the correct type of legal protection and documentation in the form or a Power of Attorney.
Decision Making Authority
When you are caring for another person, an emergency can arise unexpectedly. You need the ability to communicate that you have the ability and the authority to speak for that person in certain matters. Without proper documentation, your loved one may not receive the type of care they desire. You will also need the ability to make financial arrangements in the time of need and may need to access Betty’s accounts. Joint bank accounts are not enough in many cases.
A caregiver needs to understand the type of authority that is required to care for their loved one. Some questions you should ask the medical staff are:
- Can he/she drive?
- Can he/she cook?
- Can he/she take her medications?
- Can he/she manage the checkbook?
A Power of Attorney that covers the right decisions for Betty but as with most, it will need to be tailored specifically to the situation.
In the case of financial needs, the power of attorney that is required depends on the situation at hand. Will they be limited to the ability to pay bills and move money for that specific purpose? Will they include the ability to sell property, buy property or transfer property? Without a properly written document, a person can easily exploit another. A power of attorney should be created uniquely for the situation and by an experienced attorney who practices elder law.
In addition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will typically not recognize a power of attorney. If your loved one is receiving benefits from SSA or disability, there is a special process that must be followed for those checks to be sent to someone else. An experienced attorney in Elder Law can help with the creation of both the power of attorney and any advice about SSA.
As a caregiver, your time will be limited. Be sure to take time for yourself. If this is a temporary situation, work with your loved one’s health providers to find a long term living situation when it is time. Work with your attorney when the situation changes to be sure your legal documents have the authority that is needed for you to properly care for your loved one.
Having the correct legal document for the situation is critical to protecting yourself as well as your loved one. This protects you from claims of financial abuse and exploitation.
If you are in a situation with your loved one and need advice about which direction you should go, contact our office. Jason has years of experience working with a variety of families and situations to help tailor the exact type of legal document to protect your family.