They were the ones who used to tell YOU what to do and now the roles have reversed. Often, you feel as though you're the parent and it can be quite awkward. Or perhaps you're just noticing that your senior loved one(s) are struggling with memory issues or have become easy targets for scammers. Perhaps their health has declined, and you're trying to provide care and still maintain your family and business – especially if you work for yourself. Tough? Yes. Insurmountable? No. Caring for senior loved ones can be a challenge but with proper preparation and patience, the process can run a bit smoother.
I like to say that you're either heading into the storm, in the midst of the storm, or recovering/heading out of the storm. Where you are in the spectrum will dictate the specific action you take to deal with the storm. If you prepare before heading into the “storm” that is senior care, you can get through all stages (if needed) relatively unscathed. This can be tough because proper preparation requires the cooperation of folks who are used to telling younger folks what to do and how to do it. They are also accustomed to managing their own affairs without assistance. As an Estate Planning attorney who had also practiced Elder Law, my recommendation is to try and get three key items in place while your loved ones are fully competent and in good health. Those would be (1) an Advance Directive, (2) a Durable Power of Attorney, and (3) Long Term Care insurance (LTCI). All of these are estate planning tools that any reputable estate planning attorney can assist with.
Items (1) and (2) allow you to serve as the agent for your loved one and make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. The Advance Directive will apply to health care decisions and is a combination of the Healthcare Power of Attorney and the Living Will (neither of which are drafted separately in Georgia any longer). The Durable Power of Attorney covers financial transactions and it is its durability that allows it to withstand an incapacity. Without these two items in place, it will be difficult to help manage a loved one's affairs and may necessitate the need for a guardianship or conservatorship – both court proceedings. Item (3) provides insurance coverage for assisted living or nursing home expenses if needed. Think about it, today the daily average rate for an assisted living stay is $150. The LTCI will cover, for example, almost 90% of this cost, with an out of pocket cost of perhaps $30 for the policy holder (numbers provided are for example purposes only). When my grandmother got sick a few years ago, the fact that we had at least items (1) and (2) in place made her transition bearable. I intend to rely on the same tools to provide for my mother now as she struggles with serious medical conditions that will only get progressively worse.
For more information or for assistance with the documents mentioned in this blog, please contact The Stewart Law Practice at www.thestewartlawpractice.com or check out a great new local resource called the Senior Resource Network on Facebook.