Caregiving Crisis: How to Prepare

My friend Ellen, who lives in Michigan, was stunned when she recently received a call that her beautiful, vivacious mother had suffered a debilitating stroke. Ellen is a divorced only child, and she was suddenly responsible for a dependent single parent  living four states away. Her mother is just fifty-nine years old, and the mother and daughter had never had serious discussions about caregiving.

Dan and I had cared for my father-in-law Norman twice for long periods of time but still failed to take important critical steps that would have saved us complications and delays in needed services when Norman became suddenly and critically ill a third time.

Unfortunately, many families don’t discuss caregiving options or make decisions until they’re faced with a crisis. Currently, one-third of the American population is caring for a loved one or family member. What steps can you take now to be better prepared?

  • Begin conversations early about your loved one’s (or your) desires. Do they hope to make a move closer to family? Do they want to remain in their home? Do they hope to move to a retirement community? What plans would need to be set into motion to make those things happen?
  • Have they prepared a power of attorney? A power of attorney grants someone specific legal rights under specific conditions. Free forms for any state can be downloaded at RocketLawyer.
  • Have they prepared a durable power of attorney? This document goes into effect when the individual is incapacitated and unable to make decisions on their own behalf.
  • Have they prepared a will? Have they assigned an executor for their estate?
  • Have they prepared a medical directive, which clearly states their wishes regarding what life-saving and extreme measures they desire to be taken (i.e., respirators, feeding tubes, do not resuscitate orders, etc.)?
  • Have they assigned someone as a Designated Payee for Social Security? This is different from having Power of Attorney. The Social Security Administration cannot discuss a family member’s Social Security affairs with anyone who has not been assigned Designated Payee status. For more information, call your Social Security Office. You may be required to accompany the individual into a Social Security office to fill out the required forms.
  • Have they appointed someone to be in charge of their financial affairs?
  • Do family members know where their loved one’s insurance policies are and who to contact in the event of a crisis?

A more comprehensive list of recommended information for families to gather is located in the appendix of my book Ambushed by Grace, available at rbc.org.

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