I am writing this in response to a request made by a blog follower whose elderly mother just moved in with her. If you have issues you would like addressed please let us know, and if I can I will try to address them. This said, whether we like it or not, our population is aging. Where I live the latest demographic studies suggest that in 20 years the majority of county residents will be seniors. Moreover, I have come to know first-hand the effects of this trend as both my mother and mother-in-law are in long term care facilities. So what to do?
The first issue is to address the problem now before it may actually be a problem. Do this by thinking today about the care your parents and you may need tomorrow in the event of a debilitating injury or illness. Ask yourself who has the authority to act as a financial or health care agent for you or your loved ones. Do not assume that because you are married or a son or daughter that you automatically have this right because you do not!!! Current powers of attorney (POA) are a lifesaver in many respects because with them you can designate in advance who you want to act for you if you are unable to do so yourself. Do not pull these off the web!!!
Frequently, documents pulled from the internet are not broad or descriptive enough and this can lead to problems. I had a client with a terminally ill wife who had a weak power of attorney. He had a legal issue involving his incapacitated wife, and we had to fight to get his power of attorney accepted to do what he needed because the power of attorney failed to specifically give him the authority to act as required. I do not charge much for those I do and most other attorneys do not either so consult with a lawyer and get ones that are adequate. Additionally, ensure that the powers of attorney nominate a guardian and/or conservator for you or your parent. This will, at least in Colorado, give priority of appointment and will prevent infighting by the family. I am in a case right now where the children are fighting over who gets to do what and all of this could have been avoided by advanced planning.
When you get the POA also get a separate HIPPA waiver or release. This will enable designated persons to speak with a doctor or other health-care providers about your care or your loved one’s care. Again, just because you are a relative does not give you this right. When my mom was moved to a long term care facility on my first visit the staff checked to see if they could share information regarding her care with me. I was on her release and so I had access, but no one shared anything with me until they ensured my name was on her release.
Additionally, get an advanced care directive or living will. This document allows and individual to make end of life decisions today and these are invaluable. When my mother-in law had a massive stroke we knew exactly what to do because she had told us what she wanted, so my wife did not have to make what can be hard decisions while in the heat of the moment.
Again, plan now. Contact us if we can help. Next week: Planning in Advance.