Legal and Financial Caregiving Tips
Anyone who has taken on the care of an aging family member knows how time-consuming, complex and expensive it can be. Here are a few basic suggestions to ease the legal and financial struggles of caregiving.
Have the difficult conversations in advance
Healthcare and finance are topics that most families do not like to talk about. No matter how uncomfortable those topics are, planning in advance helps avoid crisis-based decision making. While your loved one is still healthy, consider seeing an eldercare attorney to discuss estate planning and medical decision-making.
Powers of Attorney/Living Will
If possible, get your family member to set out his or her wishes via a Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will.
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document in which your family member designates a person who should make healthcare decisions if your family member is unable to speak for himself.
A Living Will (also called Directive to Physicians) is a document in which your family member designates procedures that he or she does or does not want (feeding tube, ventilator, etc.). Making these decisions in advance will relieve family members of having to make those difficult decisions.
A Financial Power of Attorney (often just referred to as Power of Attorney) is a document in which your family member hands over control of financial and business matters to a designated person. This is a business instrument and does not apply to medical care.
A word about Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare is federal health insurance available to people over age 65.
Medicaid is a state-administered health insurance available to people with low incomes.
People often get confused about what is and is not covered by Medicare. The easiest way to think about this is to remember that Medicare is a type of health insurance, and, as such, only covers medical services. Medicare generally does not cover any non-medical services like personal care assistance (bathing, toileting, dressing), meal preparation or housekeeping.
If you are concerned that your loved one may run out of money and need to qualify for Medicaid to pay for his or her care down the road, there are specific things you can and cannot do with your loved one’s assets prior to applying for benefits. These rules vary from state to state, so you will need to find an attorney in the state where your loved one will be applying for benefits (and your Cariloop coach can help you find one!).
Medicaid can vary depending on whether your loved one is in a facility (such as a nursing home) or is still living at home. If your loved one needs to go to a facility but his or her spouse does not, Medicaid provides rules to financially protect your loved one’s spouse while they are in separate living conditions.
This information is just the starting point for planning for your loved one’s care. If you have specific questions about your situation, call us, and we’ll help you find the answers!
By Julie Coats, LBSW, JD, CCM