Tag Archives: Power of attorney

Getting Your Financial Paperwork In Order

Talking with your aging parents or family members about drafting a medical power of attorney (POA) is likely not a conversation that will come easily to most individuals. Truly, a medical power of attorney is a document that each of us should have, regardless of age or health. This power of attorney is only activated in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own behalf. If you are coherent and in control of your faculties, you are allowed to make your own decisions even if a family member disagrees. It’s important to have these forms prepared and filed prior to dementia or some illness or injury that causes you to be unable to legally sign it.

With a medical power of attorney you are making a decision (while you still can) to spell out your wishes as they pertain to what you want done, and don’t want done, in the event you suffer a medical crisis. The decision you make on your POA can be whether you’d like to be on life support, whether you want to donate organs, what (if any) heroic lifesaving measures you’d like taken. The individual that is granted the POA on your behalf is legally and ethically required to perform in good faith on your behalf.

Bottom line a medical power of attorney is one that is drawn up and signed by a competent adult (the principal), and the person being designated as the POA to make decisions on his or her behalf and then signed and filed with the attorney. The individual named in the POA to act on the behalf of another is called an agent.

In order for the agent to make medical decisions on the behalf of the principal his or her doctor must determine the principal is unable to make decisions on their own. This determination from the physician is in writing and in some states the determination requires the signatures of two physicians to have it deemed valid.

When an individual is admitted to the hospital, whether for routine surgery, as the result of an accident or for other surgical or medical procedures, the POA is part of the hospital admittance paperwork and stays with the patient chart.

While the medical POA grants rights to the agent, he or she cannot make a decision on the type and amount of medical care. When you’re drawing up the form with your attorney you can place limitations in the form that can hinder the decision-making authority an agent may exercise. These forms can be changed and updated at any time. Check with your attorney to see whether the state you reside in requires it to be notarized or prepared by an attorney if changes are being made.

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The Importance Of Locating Personal And Financial Documents Of Elderly Relatives

When faced with an emergency situation, do you know where to locate your elderly relatives’ health insurance cards, or health proxy or DNR paperwork? If there is a death in the family do you know where to find life insurance papers? Your parent’s will? Have you discussed funeral arrangements? If your elderly relative is incapacitated have arrangements been made that will allow family members to access bank accounts or other critical financial information or to make healthcare decisions on his or her behalf?

Here is a checklist of important papers that your family may need in the event of a crisis (and you should be aware of their location prior to an emergency). Once you have located these papers, make certain they are in a central, easy to find location and that the family knows where to find them. It may make sense to make copies of these documents so that all family members have access.

Here is information you will need from both of your parents:

  • Full names (Mother’s maiden name)
  • Social Security Numbers (location of Social Security Cards)
  • City of their birth
  • Date of birth (location of birth certificate)
  • Marriage date and marriage certificates
  • If one of them is deceased you will need death certificates
  • Information on any military service including branch, dates served

These are documents you will want to have stored in a secure location. Make certain you know where they’re stored:

  • The will (if your relatives do not have a will, it is crucial that one is prepared)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Insurance policies including: life, health, homeowner’s, automobile, etc.
  • List of checking and savings accounts
  • List of credit cards
  • List of monthly obligations including: credit card bills, utility bills, subscriptions, etc.
  • Retirement papers
  • Information on monthly income including: Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid information, Veteran’s benefits, etc.
  • Mortgage papers/lien releases
  • Title to vehicles
  • The names of physicians, insurance agents, attorneys, etc.
  • Funeral arrangements if they’ve been made

There will likely be more information and paperwork that your relatives have accumulated over the years that will be necessary for family members to have access to. Be advised that gathering this information could be a lengthy process and could also cause stress because it’s making both you and your other family members face their own mortality. The care you take now, though, when not operating in crisis mode will assure that any final wishes are carried out and will also help you when dealing with end of life financial issues.

The Importance Of Locating Personal And Financial Documents Of Elderly Relatives

When faced with an emergency situation, do you know where to locate your elderly relatives’ health insurance cards, or health proxy or DNR paperwork? If there is a death in the family do you know where to find life insurance papers? Your parent’s will? Have you discussed funeral arrangements? If your elderly relative is incapacitated have arrangements been made that will allow family members to access bank accounts or other critical financial information or to make healthcare decisions on his or her behalf?

Here is a checklist of important papers that your family may need in the event of a crisis (and you should be aware of their location prior to an emergency). Once you have located these papers, make certain they are in a central, easy to find location and that the family knows where to find them. It may make sense to make copies of these documents so that all family members have access.

Here is information you will need from both of your parents:

  • Full names (Mother’s maiden name)
  • Social Security Numbers (location of Social Security Cards)
  • City of their birth
  • Date of birth (location of birth certificate)
  • Marriage date and marriage certificates
  • If one of them is deceased you will need death certificates
  • Information on any military service including branch, dates served

These are documents you will want to have stored in a secure location. Make certain you know where they’re stored:

  • The will (if your relatives do not have a will, it is crucial that one is prepared)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Insurance policies including: life, health, homeowner’s, automobile, etc.
  • List of checking and savings accounts
  • List of credit cards
  • List of monthly obligations including: credit card bills, utility bills, subscriptions, etc.
  • Retirement papers
  • Information on monthly income including: Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid information, Veteran’s benefits, etc.
  • Mortgage papers/lien releases
  • Title to vehicles
  • The names of physicians, insurance agents, attorneys, etc.
  • Funeral arrangements if they’ve been made

There will likely be more information and paperwork that your relatives have accumulated over the years that will be necessary for family members to have access to. Be advised that gathering this information could be a lengthy process and could also cause stress because it’s making both you and your other family members face their own mortality. The care you take now, though, when not operating in crisis mode will assure that any final wishes are carried out and will also help you when dealing with end of life financial issues.

Tips for New Caregivers

New caregivers don’t generally have the resources or support system in place and many are thrust into this role rather quickly without adequate time to prepare. We offer a few tips that can help you get started.

1)      Understand your care recipient.  If you’re caring for a family member you might find that tip rather silly. In truth, however, knowing a person as your mother or father is a bit different than knowing them as a care recipient.  Your mom or dad may not initially care for the role reversal, for example. It’s important to get to know them through a more critical eye and notice the changes they are going through. Take time to talk with family members to learn more about the changes they’ve seen, their favorite hobbies or movies, essentially anything that would help you know them better.  It’s also important to review their medical history to the degree it is available.  By learning these simple, but valuable pieces of information, you will be in a better position to identify future changes in behavior or physical condition.

2)      Talk with your loved one about his or her finances and health care wishes. For your peace of mind and theirs, consider a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and health care. This planning can help reduce your immediate anxiety and better prepare your family for the future.

3)      Invite family and close friends to be involved in your loved one’s care. Caregiving can be exhausting at times particularly if you have many other obligations.  Make a list of all the tasks that are required as caregiver along with things such as driving mom to the doctor or the pharmacy.  Ask everyone to consider what they are willing and able to do to assist with care. Avoid the urge to feel you can manage this alone as you’ll soon find out that you can’t do so while taking proper care of yourself.

4)      Identify community resources and programs. Meals on Wheels, Senior Programs and others can be very valuable services. Medical alert services allow you the freedom to be away while still ensuring that your loved one has access to medical care should an emergency arise. Life simply can’t be suddenly placed on hold so find local programs to allow you to lead a balanced life.

5)      Find support for yourself. Caregivers often feel isolated as they take on more responsibility, and as their social lives move into the background. You may find a local support group or one online; groups that can help you muddle your way through the challenges you are facing. Don’t feel you need to go it alone!  Ask for help, as stated before, from friends, family, community programs and others you may find. Take care of yourself or you’ll have little to give to the one who is in need at this time.

Caregiving and the “only child”

It’s very common for adults to be caring for their own children and their parents as well; something that can cause angst and stress.  Caregiver stress is a very real thing and we’ve shared many ideas on how to eliminate or reduce stress. One of the techniques is to involve your siblings in the process and designate duties for every member of the family.  But what if you’re an only child?  How do you relieve the day to day stress without anyone to help?

On one side of the equation, you have no one to argue with about the decisions you need to make.  You never had to fight with siblings as you were growing up but at this stage of life, you may wish for family members with a shared history to discuss all the options with.

Caregivers need a support network and those who go it alone need to realize there are many resources to help navigate the process.  You can turn to friends and other relatives for help but you’ll also find there are many organizations to turn to for help:

  • Ask for assistance from yours or your parent’s church.  A night away or a weekend break will do wonders for your attitude.
  • Contact social workers in your area. They can help you secure home –delivered meals, transportation and other services to make day – to – day care much easier.
  • Seek the advice of an attorney.  Having a Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will helps reduce stress when emergency care becomes necessary.
  • Consider a medical alert system.  These systems provide you with the peace of mind knowing you needn’t be with them 24/7.
  • Read – find blogs, books, and articles about your parents’ condition or situation.  Knowledge can be valuable.
  • Use technology.  Sync your calendar and that of your parents so you always know their schedule.  Consider reminder services that let your parents know when it’s time to take their medications.
  • Support Groups can offer suggestions and ideas on how to go it alone and give you a forum to vent.

These and other resources can make your  “only child” caregiving duties a little less daunting.

Addressing End-of-Life Issues with Your Parents

Accepting the impending death of your parents or loved ones is an unnerving reality. Yet discussing end-of-life decisions is not always entirely unpleasant for the elderly, rather it is often the caregivers who shy away from these necessary talks. Many elderly have already made plans for their finances and know what measures they want to take if they can no longer make their own decisions, they just need the opportunity to voice their desires on paper.

The sooner you have the end-of-life talk with your parents, the better. It is important your parents establish a living will, also known as an advance directive, which provides instructions to health professionals outlining which circumstances the patient would like to be kept alive and which circumstances they would not.  More than one in four elderly will eventually need someone to make end-of-life decisions about their medical care. With such a high proportion of the elderly needing treatment decisions made for them it is obvious how valuable a living will is. Making a living will ensures your loved one’s preferences are spelled out and carried through.

Your parent or loved one should appoint a power of attorney as well. This type of advance directive gives an individual power of attorney  in the case of an incapacitating medical condition. The power of attorney allows that person to apply for disability on the patient’s behalf, make bank transactions, sign Social Security checks and write personal checks to pay bills.

Addressing your parents wishes will relieve you of making decisions about withdrawing treatment,  and your parents will be able to decide whether they would want to endure tube feedings or live with a respirator. Making plans for such scenarios is best done when there is no urgency or pressure.  You will probably find talking to your parents about such issues is much simpler than anticipated. It is easiest to begin the conversation by discussing a recent death and how it was handled, this way your parents will be given a forum to express their views of the other person’s circumstances. Talking about these issues in relation to someone else is less threatening and more conducive to an open discussion. Making sure your parents experience a good end-of life is an important way to honor the good life they led.