If you’ve read our last article, then you know the dangers seniors face as they age, including scams in order to get bank account information. Unfortunately, wrongdoers jump at the opportunity to take advantage of the inability for our elders to defend themselves. This is why it is important to plan ahead to ensure the proper care for your aging loved ones.
While providing care to your loved ones, it is important for you to ensure that you do not face any legal kickback. In other words, if you’re responsible for a senior’s financial, medical or other matters, it is important to have the right documentation in place so that you are in compliance with state and federal regulations. The last place you’ll want to visit during your loved one’s time of need is a courtroom.
While laws for long-term care vary by state, we’ve listed three common caregiving issues faced throughout the country. Please contact our office, or the office of an elder law attorney if you’re outside of Michigan, for specific rules and regulations based on your state of residence — we are happy to assist you in Michigan. Here are three caregiving issues many caregivers face when it comes to supporting their senior loved ones:
Long-term care planning issues
Long-term care consists of a variety of services centered around the needs of seniors — these needs range from health and wellness to financial management. A person looking to act on behalf of an aging parent or grandparent to secure long-term care support should seek attorney assistance to at least develop powers of attorney (POA).
A POA is used by an individual (principal) to appoint someone (agent) to make healthcare and/or financial decisions for them. This document helps banks, hospitals, house managers and other entities to know who is responsible for decisions regarding an aging loved one. The appointed agent can be anyone of the principal’s choosing. It should be noted, that a POA can only be executed when the principal is of sound mind, sufficient to understand the decision that he/she is making.
Without a POA, requests made by you for your loved one can, and likely will be denied. If you nonetheless take matters “into your own hands” without legal authority, you could face penalties by state and local law enforcement. It is therefore essential that you contact an attorney sooner rather than later to prepare a POA if you will become the person solely responsible for caregiving.
There are two types of POAs: a medical or healthcare POA and a financial POA. A medical POA (also named “living will” in many jurisdictions) gives you the right to make decisions about the care and wellbeing of an aging loved one.
A financial POA gives an agent permission to make decisions regarding money and assets belonging to the principal. One should never assume he or she possesses both POAs without a written notification. It will be important for the appointed agent to “accept” the granted authority via appropriate writing.
A medical POA is designed to allow a caregiver to legally make decisions in a hospital or long-term care facility on behalf of a senior. If a senior is unable to speak, how is a doctor or other professional expected to communicate with the person?
Additionally, if there is an emergency — for example, grandmother becomes injured due to a slip-and-fall, someone must legally be able to sign paperwork in the emergency room. Also, if needed, someone needs to administer prescribed pain medication.
In some cases, it may be too late to obtain a POA. For example, if an aging parent has dementia, depending on the severity (your attorney and doctor, jointly, can assist in making this determination), he or she will be unable to appoint you as the primary caregiver. In such situation it is still possible to obtain the necessary authority to handle matters for your loved one. It will likely require, however, court proceedings.
Either way, be sure to consult an attorney prior to moving in either direction as we have seen many cases where an individual pursued an option without a legal consultation only to later find that simpler, less expensive options would have been available.
This is why it’s important to handle caregiving issues as soon as possible. To be certain you can receive POA, or other authority, in order to make healthcare decisions, please contact our office, or an attorney in your state who specializes in elder law.
What if your parents fall victim to a telemarketing scam? What if your grandfather was possibly mistreated in a nursing home? What if your grandmother no longer wants your brother to receive a portion of an inheritance? Without an advocate to fight for your loved ones, their wishes could go ignored if they are unable to speak up for themselves.
This brings us to another reason to get a POA from an elder law attorney. If a matter reaches a courthouse, your words may mean very little without a legal document that states that you are a decision-making caregiver.
If you don’t defend your loved ones, who will? While our office (or the elder care attorney in your state of residence outside of Michigan) is willing and ready to assist you, it is up to you to have the tough talk with your loved ones while they are of sound mind and judgment. The person in charge of any medical, financial or other decisions should be determined by the loved one, the potential caregiver and a licensed attorney. Contact us to find out how the law can affect most, if not all, of your caregiving issues. We would love to talk with you!