Caregivers have so very many responsibilities toward their loved ones, but some may not realize that keeping track of their legal affairs is almost on a par with watching out for their physical health, a recent article on the website of the AARP points out.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure you have all the decision-making rights you need to manage your loved one’s affairs,” Charles Sabatino, director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, was quoted as saying.
Sabatino offered six tips to protect a relative’s legal rights as well as those of the caregiver.
Have the right documents
In addition to a will, make sure your loved one has a health care power of attorney as well as a power of attorney for financial decisions. These legal documents will allow an appointed person to make decisions for a frail or incapacitated relative.
Make a family plan
Discuss caregiving matters with all involved members of your family. Have your loved one put in writing who will be responsible for which caregiving roles — and have all parties sign. This is not a legal document, but it will help keep peace within the family by making everyone’s role clear
Organize important papers
Most people don’t realize how many legal documents they already have, or how many they will need for matters that arise. Important ones include birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, citizenship papers, death certificate of a spouse or parent, power of attorney, deeds to property and cemetery plots, veteran’s discharge papers, insurance policies and pension benefits.
Explore potential financial help
Investigate public benefits such as Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs, veterans’ benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. Also, examine your loved one’s private disability or life insurance coverage, their pension benefits, long-term care insurance and employee health insurance policy to see whether any of them cover home health visits, skilled nursing, physical therapy or any kind of short-term assistance that could include a mental health therapist or physical therapy.
Think beyond your loved one
If your parent is unable to take care of people who depended on him or her, you may need to take care of that role. This includes assuming responsibility for adult children with special needs.
Look for tax breaks and life insurance deals
Keep all medical expense receipts for tax deductions. Your family member may claim federal deductions for many medical expenses including a hospital bed or wheelchair, out-of-pocket expenses not covered by health insurance (drug costs and copayments), remodeling the home to make it handicapped accessible and a respite caregiver to give the main caregiver a break.