April 12, 2010
"It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark." Howard Ruff
Perhaps one of the most difficult conversations you'll have as a caregiver is talking about end of life preparations. For many seniors, this conversation is as hard as the one about having to move to a full-time care facility.
But because, a senior's health can fail suddenly and unexpected, it is vitally important that legal, medical and other formal arrangements be made while the senior still has the capacity to make these decisions.
So what are some of the documents you should make sure the person you care for has?
Here's a starting point:
- An Advance Directive, which is a legal document that spells out his/her wishes regarding future medical care and treatment. Through this, your senior appoints someone to make medical decisions in the event that he/she can not do so for him/herself.
- A Living Will to document the senior's wishes about whether or not he/she wants medical treatment to prolong her life if death is inevitable anyway.
- A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney, ranging across all levels of healthcare, to appoint someone to make medical decisions on behalf of the senior should he/she become incompetent.
- A Power of Attorney that appoints someone to make decisions about investments, paying bills, real estate and other legal/asset matters.
- A will and an Executor who agrees to fill that role.
- Copies of current medical insurance cards and other insurance documents should they need emergency medical treatment.
- Recent bank statements and other financial documents regarding investments in a safe and accessible place.
Making sure all of these documents are prepared with the help and involvement of the senior will get the ball rolling for planning for future care. Keep in mind that seniors may be resistant to such discussions, particularly about finances, so it may be necessary to involve an independent third party such as an eldercare attorney in the process who can explain things along. Discussions of these topics also highlight the senior's own mortality, so be sure to handle them sensitively.
Lastly, all of these important documents should be kept in a safe place and with easy access for the family members responsible for the senior's care in case they are needed quickly in an emergency.
Having a good plan in place may avert a potential crisis during a highly stressful and emotional time, so it is better to be prepared than caught off guard.
For information about how to locate an elder law attorney in your area, visit the Other Resources section.
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