By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Caring for an elderly loved one can be a time-consuming, thankless task.  There are so many situations to think about and so little time.  The checklist below will help simplify your legal and other resource concerns if you are a caregiver of an elderly loved one.

(1) Estate Planning Documents

Depending on the level of capacity of your loved one, you will want to ensure a Durable Power of Attorney is in place, if possible.  You will also want to consider encouraging your loved one to make an estate plan- a Will or trust.  I do not recommend encouraging their opinions on who inherits what, but simply urging them to start thinking about their options and finalizing their wishes in writing.  Without a Durable Power of Attorney and estate planning documents, you and your family will face an expensive, stressful battle going to Court to get guardianship and divide the estate when the time comes.

(2) Set up Access to Medical Information

Though a DPOA can help with this, you will also need to consider HIPAA laws and authorizations.  HIPAA laws make access to medical records difficult without the patient’s authorization.  Encourage your loved one to allow you access now, before it’s too late.

(3) Government Benefits

If your loved one or his or her spouse served in the military, your loved one may be eligible for Veteran’s Benefits.  Check with your local Veteran’s Associations to confirm requirements.

Also, depending on you loved one’s income level, he or she may be eligible for Medicaid and other income-based benefits.  Reach out to your local agencies for more information on eligibility requirements.

(4) Find a Doctor Who Specializes in Geriatric Care

Many doctors are unfamiliar with the unique needs of the elderly.  Be sure to reach out to a doctor with appropriate experience and a stellar reputation to help you and your loved one through these transitional years.

(5) Reach out to Community Resources

There are many resources available in the community to help caregivers of the elderly.  There are Adult Day Centers where caregivers can drop their loved ones off for a day of play and socializing while the caregiver works or rests.  There are community respite services, and even home care services available.  Reach out to your DHS Aging Services department, Areawide Aging services organizations, Alzheimer’s Association, and local senior centers for more information on what is available in your community.  Availability of services varies in different communities.

Though it can be difficult to care for your elderly loved ones, there are organizations and people who want to help.  Be sure to reach out and get help for your situation.