Caregiving – The Challenge of Managing Details

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Assisting a person with private financial, legal, and medical matters can be complicated and awkward, but it’s possible to keep the experience positive. Developing and implementing realistic plans together – adult to adult – can allow the care receiver to retain more independence and self-esteem, while strengthening your relationship.

When discussing these subjects, listen to what the care receiver has to say, respect his or her ideas and feelings, and allow enough time for him or her to think about choices. The care receiver’s guidelines will help you provide assistance as it is needed. Keep in mind that trying to decide all financial, legal, and medical matters in one setting is unrealistic.

Stepping in If you are uncertain as to whether the care receiver needs help, listen for clues in comments. She might mention that she is having trouble “keeping things straight,” or that she is “too sick to worry about such things.” You might observe her having difficulties negotiating financial or legal matters. She might not ask for help, but you can share your observations and offer assistance.

What is your role?  Explain your concerns in an open, honest, direct manner.  Research the topic; investigate the options.  Present options and allow time to think.  Schedule time to meet and make a decision.  Evaluate the outcome of the decision and revise plans as needed.  Encourage your care receiver to take appropriate legal and financial steps to protect her rights and wishes. Talk is not enough. Action is required before a crisis occurs. Dealing with financial and legal matters empowers the care receiver and lightens the caregiver’s load. It doesn’t need to be a wrenching experience; in fact, you could take care of your own records at the same time.

Financial matters Encourage your care receiver to simplify her bookkeeping chores. Below are some strategies to consider.  Put all money in one financial institution.  Set up direct deposit of social security checks, pension checks, etc.  Use automatic debit for payment of utility and other bills.  Start a joint checking account or put your name on her account so you can write checks to cover expenses.

Legal matters Making legal arrangements seems an intimidating process, but it offers peace of mind because everyone’s wishes are known and written down. Contacting an attorney familiar with aging issues can help you address this emotionally-charged issue. Here are three concepts important to understand:

 Will: A will is a document stating a person’s wishes for distribution of his or her assets after death. A valid will minimizes confusion for the family and provides legal protection for entitled survivors.  Durable Power of Attorney: This flexible legal arrangement can enable someone to act on behalf of another person for financial as well as medical matters. Legal obligations begin only when requested or required due to incapacity.  Guardianship: When someone becomes incapable of making decisions, the court appoints a legal guardian. The guardian must provide all financial records for yearly review, and he or she is responsible for all decisions on the care receiver’s behalf.