Perhaps one of the most difficult things that we must face as adults is the prospect of having one or both of our parents reach a point where they can no longer physically or mentally take care of themselves. When this occurs, the difficulty of watching a loved one decline is compounded by the additional responsibility of having to take care of that person and make sure that their well-being is properly addressed.
This can be quite a challenging time for anyone, especially if they are unprepared or just unsure of what to do next. While it may seem like you are all alone during this time, it is important to understand that there are many options open that can help you find the right type of day-to-day care for your loved one depending on your individual situation.
The first thing that must be done is to take a step back and survey the entire situation. Start with understanding the type of needs your loved one will have and the expected duration of the care they will need. Ask as many questions as you can of the medical professionals helping your relative.
Medical professionals will be a very important source of assistance for you because they deal with these types of situations all the time and understand how to best assist both you and your relative. They will usually be able to refer you to specialists or other professionals who deal specifically with the type of situation affecting your loved one.
Once you make the determination that your family member needs care, you need to look at various criteria for that care and decide the level of involvement you need to take. After examining the possible scenarios, you can determine the type and level of care your relative needs and whether or not getting a durable power of attorney might be in the best interest of both you and your family member.
A power of attorney can be used to nominate a power of attorney to represent an individual and their affairs in several different areas should they become incapacitated.
The first place to start is to determine the duration of the care that will be needed. Finding out if your family member’s condition is permanent or only temporary will allow you to determine what the next step will be. You must also determine if their condition is something that will get progressively worse over time.
If their condition is temporary, then making arrangements for short-term care should be relatively easy and a power of attorney might not be needed. However, if their condition is permanent or is likely to become progressively worse over time, long-term care and legal planning will be an eventuality that must be addressed.
Once the duration of care is determined, you need to focus on the type of care that your loved one will need. Generally, various levels of care can be administered either in-home or at a facility, depending on the condition of the relative. In the early stages, they might be able to function in their own home with only a minimal amount of supervised care, but as their condition advances, they will require more and more supervised care until they cannot be left alone. When this occurs, the family can opt to have the relative move into a family member’s home with constant supervision, or they can place the relative in a facility that specializes in managed care.
The most inexpensive option is in-home care, yet this can be a very challenging route for the other family members depending on the amount of care needed. Even if this path is chosen, eventually the loved one will reach a point where more intensive care must be administered or the relative’s condition moves beyond the capabilities of the other family members.
When this occurs, your relative can be transferred to a managed care facility, or in-home hospice care can be arranged that will relieve the family of the day-to-day challenges associated with this time.
Prior to making these tough decisions about the type and level of care your relative requires, it is necessary to create a durable power of attorney in order to have the legal authority to make decisions for your relative when they no longer can reasonably make them for themselves. This becomes especially important if your family member suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's disease and no longer has the capacity to effectively make important decisions on their own.
The decisions of where to care for your relative and what level of care to administer must be made with both the relative’s and the family’s best interests in mind. These are difficult choices that need to be made at this stage of care, and the person responsible for making these decisions needs to have legal authority to do so. This is where the power of attorney becomes essential in dealing with the financial and medical aspects of the situation.
Nearly as important as taking care of your relative is effectively managing their finances. Once they have lost the ability to properly manage their bank accounts and investments, the power of attorney will allow you to step in and ensure that your relative’s affairs do not wind up in conservatorship, which allows others to make financial and medical decisions instead of the family.
Having a durable power of attorney allows you to ensure family decisions remain within the family and the estate of your relative is utilized to provide them with the care that they need. While it is never easy to live with the demise of a parent or a loved one, there are proactive things that you can do to make sure a bad situation does not become much worse.
Planning ahead and getting legal documents in order will enable your family to focus on the care of your loved one and not the legal and financial entanglements of the court system.
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