Summary: What can you do if your family member or loved one is starting to lose the ability to care for themselves? Siedentopf Law shares advice on putting a plan in place based on a person’s mental, physical, financial, and/or legal needs.
During the holidays, when everyone is gathered together, you may have noticed that family members or loved ones are having problems – that they might not be in good mental or physical health. If this is the case, and the person has started to lose the ability to manage daily affairs, what can you do to help?
The optimal time to plan for incapacity is before it happens; when the individual is healthy, competent, and able to make choices about what type of care he or she wants. However, it is never too late to put a plan in place based on someone’s current needs. There is always something that can be done.
Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment. If you are worried about a family member or loved one’s mental or physical health, help schedule a doctor’s visit, and then accompany him or her to the appointment. Bring with you any questions or concerns. During this visit, and with permission of your relative or loved one, you can collect medical information (doctor’s names, medications taken, health insurance coverage) learn their medical history (medical tests and diagnoses) and ask the medical staff for recommendations. Establishing a relationship with someone’s doctors will make communication easier down the road. Also, doctors and nurses may have valuable information and advice to share about local resources. If your family member is willing and able, he or she may be able to sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) release to allow the medical staff to talk to you even when the family member is not present.
Also remember that even if you are not able to get your loved one to the doctor, if you know who the doctor is, you can still call and give the doctor information. HIPAA prevents the doctor from giving you information without the patient’s consent, but does not prevent the doctor from listening to information you have to give.
Double-Check Their Finances. Unfortunately, financial abuse of the infirm and elderly has become a growing problem. So, it is best to check your relative’s or loved one’s bank records, with permission, to make sure his or her finances are being handled properly. Once that task is completed, you can hire an in-home care agency or secure a Power of Attorney (more information about these below) to handle the person’s daily financial decisions.
Consider Hiring In-Home Help. Given the choice, most people want to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving in with a relative or to assisted living. However, they may need help with everyday activities such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, taking care of themselves, or remembering to take their medicine. In-home care agencies can send caregivers to a person’s home to help them with meals, medication, mobility, and/or finances. There are several reputable resources for help finding appropriate home care, including the National Council on Aging, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, and local elder law attorneys.
Meet with an Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney. By meeting with an attorney, a person can dictate his or her wishes as to care and put a plan in place. If someone has multiple relatives or family members, it is best to communicate these plans with those who will be affected so that everyone is aware of the decisions being made. An elder law attorney can help the client complete a “Durable Power of Attorney” which is a legal document enabling the principal (client) to appoint an agent (trusted friend or relative) to handle specific responsibilities. There are two types of Power of Attorney: the Power of Attorney for Healthcare (called an Advance Directive in Georgia) gives the agent authority to make healthcare decisions on the principal’s behalf, and the Power of Attorney for Finances gives the agent authority to make legal and/or financial decisions on the principal’s behalf. The Power of Attorney can be written so that the transfer of responsibility occurs immediately or at incapacitation. However, it is important to note that the person must be of sound mind (capable of making decisions) at the time he or she signs the Power of Attorney.
For those interested in drafting a Power of Attorney, or for more advice on Elder Law issues, you can contact Siedentopf Law via our website at EstateLawAtlanta.com or by calling us at (404) 736 – 6066.
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