Five Legal Issues Caregivers Face

As your loved ones get older, they may become more physically and/or emotionally vulnerable. Unfortunately, this presents a situation in which they can easily be taken advantage of. To adequately prepare for this situation in the event that it occurs, legal planning is necessary. In many cases, families fail to consider these arrangements. In other cases, the plan they established does not have a durable legal foundation and thus, fails. With the correct knowledge, you have the opportunity to prepare early on to protect your legal interests when caring for a senior family member. As you begin to explore your legal options, there are some problems you may face as a caregiver.

What are the issues that Caregivers Face?

1. Problems with Power of Attorney

It is extremely important to draft a power of attorney (POA) to establish someone you trust to make decisions as a healthcare or financial proxy. A POA document establishes an individual (the “principal”) to assign a trusted relative (the “agent”) to make healthcare, legal, and financial decisions on their behalf. This document can also specify how much power the principal allows or limits to the agent. A POA ensures that if you are unavailable/unable to make decisions for your senior family member, another person can step in and take your place. However, this decision often comes at the expense of family relationships when someone is chosen over another person. Additionally, it may be a complicated process when filing with your bank. Despite the challenges a POA may present, it is important to draft one as soon as possible even if your elderly family member is still mentally capable. In some cases, they may still want your help with minor responsibilities. It is also best to be well prepared for the future in case there is a sudden change in their mental or physical status.

2. Seeking Guardianship of an Elder

Oftentimes, family members do not prepare for possible deterioration in the senior’s medical status. Thus, the family fails to file a Power of Attorney document prior to the senior's sudden loss of competence. Alternatively, in some cases, the person that was assigned the role of caregiver abuses their power. To appoint a new caregiver, long and expensive guardianship proceedings are usually needed.

3. Preventing and Prosecuting Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult.”Mentally vulnerable senior citizens are most likely to fall victim to abuse. Those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are unable to defend themselves and often unaware of what is taking place. Even senior citizens who are mentally capable can still fall victim to abuse such as a caregiver that steals from their home. 

4. False Accusations of Abuse or Neglect

Senior family members with dementia may have a tendency to sabotage their caregivers and themselves. They may falsely accuse caregivers of elder abuse when they forget who the person is or don’t get what they want. Unfortunately, even if their abuse accusation has no real claim to it, caregivers may have to deal with APS investigations and/or legal action. To prepare for such possibilities, you should keep records of the activities you provide, when the senior’s doctor diagnosed them with dementia, what stage their dementia was initially diagnosed at and how it has progressed, and lastly, when they had to give up responsibilities such as cooking and driving.

5. Estate Administration

Estate administration involves the collection and distribution of assets to beneficiaries. To make this complicated process easier, a will should be drafted well in advance. A will is a legal document that details an individual’s financial and social wishes, and goes into effect after they pass away. Problems arise when family members fail to draft a will before their loved one passes away, fail to update it as more assets are discovered, or fail to share it with the appropriate family members. While a will simplifies the legal aspects of estate administration, it can cause divisiveness between competing family members. 

How an Elder Care Attorney Can Help

If you are a new caregiver for an elderly loved one, it is important to seek advice from an attorney with abundant experience in elderly care. If you have been a caregiver for years, but have come across an unexpected legal issue, it is also important to consult an experienced professional. It is never too early to start looking into a well developed elder care plan. It is extremely important to be prepared in case a sudden event occurs causing a deterioration in health or a case of elder abuse arises. It is just as important to protect yourself from unfortunate false accusations on your loved one’s behalf when they are mentally disabled. For further information on how to start your Elder Care planning, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2394 to obtain aid in the drafting of legal documents and help with any of your Elder Care needs.

3 Legal Documents That are Needed for Caregivers to Manage a Senior’s Healthcare

Planning for your elderly loved ones is a crucial task that guarantees their safety in preparation for the future. It is imperative that all of the documents are completed in a timely fashion so that they can be utilized when the time comes. Additionally, seniors must select trusted individuals to make decisions on their behalf once they are no longer able to do so. Due to the legality behind healthcare and medical practices the laws regarding the individuals who can receive updates on the senior are very specific. In order to partake in medical decisions and conversations with your loved one’s doctor you must have the eligible qualification that entrust you with such information. If you would like to be the one responsible for making medical decisions on the senior’s behalf, you should complete the proper documents that would grant you this authority. These documents will be supplied to you by an Elder Care attorney and you will be assisted in the task of filling them out completely. If you do not complete these documents prior to needing to make medical decisions on behalf of your loved one, then you must go to court to petition for guardianship. This is an absolute last effort that should be avoided at all costs, as it takes time away from your ability to make medical decisions for your loved one.

Most Important Documents for Managing a Senior’s Healthcare

Document #1: Power of Attorney

A power of attorney gives an individual the right to act on your behalf. There are four types of power of attorney documents that are mostly commonly utilized. These include General Power of Attorney, which means the document comes to a close when the principal becomes incapacitated, revokes the agent for the power of attorney, or passes away.The power of attorney has the power to make medical decisions on behalf of the senior in need of care. A Durable Power of Attorney enables the agent to maintain power even once the person becomes incapacitated. This implies that they can make decisions for the senior even once the senior is not in a clear and present state of mind. A Special Power of Attorney gives the agent specific limited powers within a specific area. Lastly, a Springing Durable Power of Attorney comes into place when a specific event causes the principal to become incapacitated. This document must be prepared while the individual is still competent to ensure that the agent has the power to make all of these imperative decisions when the time comes .A Power of Attorney allows the principal to appoint a specific agent who will act on their behalf in the case that they become incapacitated. Therefore, this individual must prioritize the needs and preferences of the principal by making imperative decisions. These decisions pertain to finances, healthcare, recommending a guardian, etc. This ensures that your loved one’s wishes are met through the guarantee of financial security and effective healthcare choices when the principal becomes unable to make the decisions on their own.

Document #2: HIPAA Authorization Form

The acronym HIPAA stands for the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. This form guarantees that an individual’s health information and records will remain private under the legal jurisdiction of the act. With the presence of this form medical professionals are unable to share any information regarding your health or status to others without legal consent in written form. However, if your name is stated in the form then the doctor has the right to inform you of the patient’s care. If your name is written in the form it implies that you are an approved family member and therefore eligible to ask any questions and receive all medical information regarding the care and status of your loved one. The individual receiving the care must sign the HIPPA form in order to give consent for family members to be involved in the medical decision process. Only the minimum information necessary will be communicated, so do not worry about all of your information being communicated. Therefore, you are greatly encouraged to complete this form to ensure that you are authorized and eligible to receive updates on your loved one’s medical status.

Document #3: Advance Healthcare Directive 

This document is a perfect preparation for the foreseeable future, as it serves a similar purpose to a will document. The individual communicates their healthcare preferences in the case that they become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. This document dictates directions for the medical power of attorney to follow to ensure that the senior’s best interest is prioritized. In the case that the patient is in need of resuscitation, this document should state whether resuscitation should occur or if the patient wishes not to be resuscitated. All of the serious medical decisions concerning life support and the decision to donate organs are stated within the document to guarantee that the patient is treated in the exact manner he would have preferred if he were able to make his own decisions in the moment.Be sure to discuss all of the potential medical necessities and healthcare issues with your loves one, so that you are fully aware of their wishes and best interests.  An attorney can assist you with drafting a valid Advance Healthcare Directive that will abide by your state’s laws. Take the time now to best prepare for your loved one’s future by planning for their healthcare in advance. 

Although it may be difficult to come up with a way to discuss the topic with your loved ones, the conversation is definitely worth having. The best way to begin this conversation would be to state that you are interested in creating a healthcare plan for your future and would like some advice. During this process, your elderly loved ones will realize that they too are in need of Elder Care Planning. This will be the perfect moment to take note of their preferences and desires regarding the manner in which they wish to be cared for. Schedule an appointment with your local Elder Care Attorney to begin the journey of planning for a better future. The attorney will provide a detailed outline of all the steps and documents you must follow and complete. You will be guided throughout the entire process and will have all of the support necessary because growing older should not be an end to your journey, rather just a stepping stone. 

For further Elder Care Planning information please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2394 to effectively plan for your elderly loved one’s future.