November Is Caregivers Month: Legal Planning for Sick & Disabled Loved Ones
November is Caregivers Month, which is an important time to recognize individuals dealing with the burdens and responsibilities of caring for sick and/or disabled loved ones. Marietta Georgia elder law attorney Steve Worrall talks here about how pre-planning and communication can make the caregiver's job mush easier.
Caregivers often become burnt out, depressed, and sick themselves, assuming that the reason they are having such a hard time in their role of caregiver must be due to the fact that they are “letting their loved one down” and not providing the “level and quality” of care that they should be.
But, caregivers across our state might be relieved to know that the struggles and frustrations they face have less to do with them being a “bad caregiver” and more to do with a lack of pre-planning and communication.
Unfortunately, no one ever anticipates becoming ill or disabled to the point that they would be unable to care for themselves. That means, in most cases, the person you are caring for right now never intended to have you in this role—leaving both you and them unprepared and ill-equipped for the future.
The simple solution to get everyone back on the same page, while more effectively managing stress and expectations, is to begin having open and direct conversations about the future and possible long-term care hurdles that may arise.
These conversations may be uncomfortable to have and may even be met with resistance from your loved one; however, addressing long-term care issues in a direct way will ensure everyone is on the same page and that there's enough time to put a solid plan in place to carry out your loved one's wishes, while safeguarding their independence, finances, and future well-being.
To get the conversations rolling, here are a few key issues to begin discussing with your loved one. Approach them gently with your loved one's continued independence and best wishes in mind as you ask:
- What are your wishes for emergency or end-of-life medical care (i.e. life support, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, organ donation)?
- Are there any lifesaving procedures you would NEVER want?
- Who do you trust to make medical decisions and communicate with your doctors if you are unable to speak for yourself?
- If at all possible, would you prefer in-home assistance?
- If you needed nursing home or in-home care, how would you want us to pay for it? What if Medicare or Medicaid is not an option?
- Do you have a will, trust or other estate planning documents in place? Where can we find them, and are they up to date?
- Who have you named in your “legal helper” roles (i.e. Power of Attorney, Healthcare Representative)? Where can we find the documentation we need to handle your affairs in an emergency?
In all, you will find that knowing your loved one's wishes in these different situations will make your job as a caregiver much easier, as you will be prepared to make appropriate decisions under pressure and avoid many of the financial struggles that families face when attempting to secure long-term care. Don't forget to also stay in close contact with your estate and disability planning attorney, who will help you utilize legal tools such as Living Trusts and Powers of Attorney in order to stay in control and protect family assets from being lost to creditors, nursing homes and/or the government.
Steve Worrall is a Marietta Georgia estate planning and elder law attorney at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC. For a Caregivers Legal and Life Planning guide, please visit Hope4Caregivers. com