Watching a parent or otherelderly loved one succumb to the physical and/or mental deterioration that goesalong with the aging process is never easy. Trying to provide care to a lovedone from far away can make things even more difficult. Nevertheless, manypeople find themselves in precisely that role – a long-distance caregiver. Inan effort to make your life a little easier, a Woburn area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices explains how to be a long-distance caregiver.
Unpaid Caregivers by the Numbers
According to the NationalAlliance for Caregiving, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid careto an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. The majority of thosecaregivers (82%) provide care for a single adult, usually a close familymember. The monetary value of the services provided by unpaid caregivers istruly staggering – and it is increasing noticeably as the older populationcontinues to increase at a historic rate. Over five years ago, in 2013, theeconomic value of all unpaid care in the United States was an estimated $470billion. Compare that to the value of that same care in 2007 when it wasestimated to be at $375 billion – anincrease of almost $100 billion in just six years.
Not all that long ago, adultchildren tended to remain fairly close to their parents even when they startedtheir own families. In fact, it was common for three or more generations tolive together, or within walking distance of each other, in large part so thatthey could all take care of each other. Today, however, it is just as likelyfor families to be scattered across the country if not across the world. Whenan elderly parent (or other family member) does reach a point at which care isneeded, picking up and moving back home in order to provide that care may notbe a realistic opton. Being along-distance caregiver though is hardly easy. If you are a long-distancecaregiver, there are some things you can do to make your “job” a bit lessstressful, including:
- Educate yourself with regard to your loved one’s current medical conditions and medications. Check with your parent’s doctors and research online. Make sure though that you have permission for online access to medical records and other information protected by HIPPEA. To help care for your parent you need to have a clear understanding of how any medical conditions they have impact them. This will help you know what to expect and what symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a serious problem.
- Take the time to fully research potential care providers. While it may be difficult to do from afar, make an effort to learn what you can about the health care professionals caring for your parent. If someone provides in-home care you want to develop as close a relationship as possible with this person because he/she has direct access to your parent and could exert considerable influence over him/her.
- Secure important documents. This might include his/her birth certificate, social security card, insurance documentation, bank account statements, estate planning documents and anything else that seems important.
- Obtain original copies of important legal documents. In order to properly care for your parent you will likely need the proper legal authority to do so. That authority may be given to you in the form of a general power of attorney, as the Trustee of a trust, in medical release forms, as an agent in a medical power of attorney, or as a court appointed guardian. You may also want to become a joint owner of property owned by your parent to make it easier to manage the property. In any case, you need to have the proper documentation close at hand in case someone questions your authority.
- Plan for an emergency. Whether you are caring for an elderly loved one who lives in the same house as you or who lives thousands of miles away, you need to be prepared for an emergency. Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready if you live within driving distance. If you live too far to drive, decide ahead of time the best way to get there quickly (plane, bus, train). If you must travel abroad, make sure your passport is up to date. Finally, have a contingency plan for children, pets, and your job in the event you must pick up and go on a moment’s notice.
Contact A Woburn Area Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions orconcerns about providing care for an elderly loved one, contact a Woburn area elderlaw attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices bycalling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule anappointment.
What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?
A Power of Attorney for Health Care is a type of advance directive that allows your loved one to designate an Agent to make health care decisions, including those involving life-sustaining treatment, if he/she can no longer make them because of incapacity.
If others are caring for your loved one while you are not there, it is imperative that you watch for signs of elder abuse, such as:
• Noticeable mood changes (anger, depression, sadness)
• Unexplained physical injuries ( bruises, bone fractures, restraint marks)
• Financial problems (unpaid bills, missing money, unexplained expenses)
If your loved one reaches the point at which he/she cannot make decisions and/or manage his/her financial affairs because of incapacity, you may need to petition a court for guardianship. Consult with an elder law attorney if you believe guardianship is necessary.
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