Is it Time to Consider a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
It’s August now and it’s time to get prepared for another school year for your children. Dad is seeing the doctor more frequently as they want to monitor his medical condition. Today, dad sees the doctor at 11am making it a bit tough to get a good lunch for the kids. Life today is active, especially for women aged 45 – 56 who care for both their parents and children. This is the third of a six part series for these people caught in the “sandwich generation”.
Today’s doctor visit reveals that dad may have need for surgery and a long rehab. If the surgery goes well he could be back in his home in a month or so, but if things do not go as well, dad may need more permanent help. While everyone is hoping for the best, it is prudent to discuss and make plans if surgery and rehab does not go well.
If your parents have not seen an attorney specializing in issues concerning the elderly, now is a good time to do so. Wills, trusts and advanced directives should be discussed and any needed paperwork put into place. A will’s purpose is to clarify how to transfer property after one’s death. This is a good tool to help families divide property per the decedent’s wishes and avoid “family bickering”. There are different trusts to perform different functions. Your attorney can guide you with this issue. Powers of attorney can give someone the power to make decisions if your dad is not able. This would apply to financial and healthcare decisions. Be sure to have your dad’s primary care physician keep copies of their healthcare power of attorney in file. (Your mother’s also)
In addition, parents, you and your siblings should discuss how exactly your parents would wish to proceed if health situations arise. Discuss, not only, whether or not they wished to be kept alive if they were “brain dead”, but details such as whether or not to have the doctors restart the heart if it would stop during surgery, whether or not to use tube feeding. Their doctor’s input is critical with these issues. That is one of the reasons you take them to the doctor. Ask questions. This discussion will not only help the decision maker, but more importantly help give them peace after a tough decision was made.
An attorney can also help guide your parents through planning for the future and the aging process. If your dad needs rehab in a skilled nursing facility, or a longer, less skilled stay; how would your parents pay for this? Last month’s column covered the financial component and insurance and public programs to assist a person financially. Along with financial planning, your parents may wish to look at Estate and Medicaid Planning with the attorney. A plan can be created to give your parents, you and your siblings’ peace of mind and lessen he chaos of a crisis.
Coordinating care for your children and parents simultaneously is not easy. What can you do to manage this? Three words of advice: Plan, Plan and Plan. Legal, financial, residential, mental and physical healthcare elements must be addressed prior to a crisis. A sandwich generationer should guide their parent through these issues and the primary issue of safety, while being careful not to take all control away from a parent. Once again, it is important to start talking, making suggestions and guiding early, do not wait for a crisis.