Three Documents Every Caregiver Should Have
Here at Cariloop we talk a lot about planning. One of the most important aspects of planning for caregivers is making sure you have the legal right to do everything you may need to do for your loved one. Whether you are facing a medical or a financial situation, certain documents must be filled out to ensure you are able to properly care for your loved one.
When it comes to filling out important legal documents, many people tend to procrastinate for a wide variety of reasons. Getting legal affairs in order is emotionally upsetting for some people, and it can also be inconvenient and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. In most cases, forms can be obtained easily, and can be witnessed rather than having to be notarized. State laws do vary, so it is important to make sure you are using forms that are valid in the state where the patient lives. You can find state-specific forms here or ask your Cariloop Coach for help.
- Out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate order
An out-of-hospital DNR is only necessary if your loved one does not want to be revived by paramedics in the event of a fatal accident outside of the hospital (car accident, heart attack, severe fall at home, etc.). Be sure to have this document available at all times so that you can quickly show it to a first-responder. If you are not able to produce an out-of-hospital DNR to a first-responder, they are legally obligated to use all resuscitative measures, which can be traumatic for both the patient and the family. Out-of-hospital DNRs must also be signed by a doctor (in most states), so, if your family member has decided they do not want to be revived, then it is crucial to get this done. You may have signed a DNR in the hospital or at another facility, but those documents do not apply outside of those facilities.
- Living Will
A ‘living will’ is a term that encompasses any document (again, they vary by state) in which a person states in advance what life-sustaining treatments they do or do not want. It only comes into play when the patient is unable to communicate his or her wishes. The importance of this is that it relieves your loved ones from having to choose whether you receive these treatments. Living wills address treatments such as use of a ventilator, artificial nutrition and hydration (feeding tubes). The documents go by different names in different states but are readily available and easy to complete. This is especially important if you do not have a Medical Power of Attorney in place or if there are family members who feel strongly about these types of treatments and thus there is the likelihood of conflict or disagreement at this critical time. Spare your family from conflict by getting wishes documented in advance.
- Powers of Attorney
It is important to have both a medical and a financial power of attorney on file because they function in different ways. A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) allows a patient to identify a person that they want to make decisions about their care, in the event that they can no longer communicate. These forms do not require an attorney or notarization, but they usually require witnesses who are unrelated to the patient.
A Financial Power of Attorney is different in that it identifies a person that the patient wants to be able to make financial (business) decisions on their behalf. It goes into effect as soon as it is signed, rather than only applying when the patient can’t communicate. It allows your loved one to designate a proxy who can conduct business in their stead. In some states they can be set to expire after a specific period of time.
By Julie Coats, LBSW, CCM