The most important things to have in your possession when you are caring for aging parents – or if you’re in a position where you ever might care for them – are powers of attorney. And the powers are not one set of paperwork – they are two.
The first kind of power of attorney is for finances. The document, usually drawn up by a professional in elderly law, allows you to pay bills and file taxes for your parents. It also allows you to oversee investments and continue to collect government benefits for parents who are incapacitated either permanently or temporarily.
The second kind of power of attorney is for health. The document allows you to make medical decisions on behalf of parents who cannot advocate for themselves. Some states’ elderly law allows end-of-life directives to be included in this document, but other states require a separate living will.
Usually a married couple will name each other as their powers of attorney. But when both parents are aging, they might not recognize incapacitation in the other. They may be used to certain quirks, habits or a lifestyle that may keep them from realizing one of them may need to take over for the other.
The good news is, you now know about both kinds of powers of attorney. And you now recognize that your parents looking out for each other might not be sufficient.
If the care of your parents might ever fall to you, even if you don’t feel that day is close yet, it is important to get powers of attorney now. Rarely do we ever predict the day that something catastrophic might happen to a parent. We may be expecting a slow, gentle decline, but a sudden stroke can rob a person of their abilities to communicate.
Usually the first time you realize you needed to have powers of attorney is the first time you realize it’s too late to easily get them.
Having both powers of attorney, and having easy, immediate access to the documents that grant them to you, is the single best way you can advocate for a parent receiving emergency health care in a hospital, and handle a parent’s finances so his affairs are in order upon a recovery and a return to health. If your parents keep the papers in a safe deposit box, you won’t be able to access them on your own, which defeats the purpose. Make sure the papers are items you can grab in a hurry, on your way to an unanticipated emergency room visit or after a sudden phone call from a primary care physician, a neighbor or another family member.
It also does not have to be you, or any adult child, that your parents assign the powers of attorney to. As long as they have a back-up person other than each other, and the documents are easily and quickly retrievable, you will be able to empower the person of their choice to take over the tasks that will need to be overseen.
Since each states’ elderly law can be different, make sure the documents are reviewed in your parents move to a different state. A good rule of thumb is to review and update the documents every three years to keep abreast of any changes in elderly law or your family’s particular situation.
About the Author : Adam J. Roa
Adam J. Roa is a Maryland elder law lawyer who deals with cases related to elder finances and other complications in the caregiver to elder relationship. If you need professional help or suspect elder abuse in this situation, please contact Adam or your local elder law lawyer.
Adam J. Roa, Towson Law Office, 401 Washington Ave., Suite 803, Towson, MD 21204 | Phone: 410-296-8166 ext. 292