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Legal Preparations For Caregiving: Documents & Discussions With Your Loved One

Legal Preparations for Caregiving: Documents & Discussions with Your Loved One

Most seniors would like to remain independent for as long as possible.  Provided they are in good physical, mental, and emotional health, they may be able to maintain independence throughout the course of their lives.  Unfortunately, the ravages of time can affect the body in a number of ways.  Seniors that are dealing with physical ailments, mental illness, or debilitating emotional issues may not be able to care for themselves, especially if they live alone.

Even if seniors live with a spouse or with younger family members, professional care may be necessary to ensure they get the attention they need.  Whether elderly loved ones are housebound due to a physical illness or injury, they’re suffering from the onset of degenerative mental conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s, or they’re lonely and depressed, a professional caregiver can help to ease the burden on seniors and their family members.

Of course, families need to understand that there are certain legal preparations for caregiving that should be discussed with senior loved ones.  This not only includes talking to loved ones about their wishes, but also making sure appropriate legal documentation is in place to account for scenarios in which a senior may become incapacitated and unable to make decisions on their own behalf.  Here are a few legal preparations you’ll want to discuss with loved ones before a caregiving situation becomes necessary.

Discussing Caregiving Wishes

The place to begin is by having a discussion with senior loved ones about their wishes should they need a professional caregiver or should they become somehow incapacitated and unable to make decisions down the road.  Would seniors rather stay in the home and use home care services or would they prefer to move into an assisted living facility that has on-site services and medical care?

In the event of a life-threatening injury or illness, do your loved ones want to be resuscitated?  Do they want life-sustaining treatments if they are facing a terminal condition?  Who do they want to handle their finances and estate if they become incapacitated, and do they have instructions prepared so that a loved one can carry out their wishes in their stead?  Do they have an end of life plan in place?

It can be hard to discuss such morbid topics with your loved ones, but the last thing anyone wants is to end up in a situation where a family member has to make decisions for an elderly loved one with no clue about how the patient would proceed.  This stress can be avoided with discussion and planning before such an occurrence.

Preparing Needed Legal Documents

Talking about a plan for caregiving is a good start, but legal preparations for caregiving must be made so that a person’s decisions cannot be challenged later on.  There are several legal documents every person should prepare on their own behalf.

This starts with a living will and power of attorney.  The first informs family members and caregivers of a patient’s wishes regarding medical treatment should he/she become incapacitated.  The second designates a family member, friend, or third party (such as a lawyer) that can make decisions on behalf of a person who becomes incapacitated, often in keeping with instructions in the living will.

Patients may choose to include a DNR, or “do not resuscitate” order that means they do not wish to be brought back to life in the event that they stop breathing, their heart stops beating, or other catastrophic, life-ending failure occurs.  Alternately, patients may fill out a POLST, or “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment” (this legal document may have different names in different states).

When creating these legal documents, it’s also a good idea to address financial power of attorney, digital power of attorney (if patients have digital assets like online and social media accounts), and wills and living trusts that spell out wishes for distribution of assets and items of sentimental value in the event of death.

Financial Planning

Unfortunately, the planning doesn’t begin and end with an honest discussion and legal documents.  Planning for professional care for aging loved ones comes at a cost, and families need to discuss and decide upon how such costs will be covered.

Those nearing senior citizen status should start looking into caregiver agencies and assisted living facilities to choose options that best suit their wishes and their financial resources.  This is also a good time to consider long-term care and life insurance policies that provide assisted living or in-home care benefits.  Some have a waiting period, so it’s best to get started before there is need for a caregiver.

While many people plan for retirement these days, it’s also wise to look into additional resources for senior care, including assistance offered through organizations like AARP and PACE, as well as local resources and community support organizations that can help.  With legal and financial decisions made early, seniors and their families won’t have to scramble when the need for a caregiving situation arises.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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