Caring for a loved one who is aging and experiencing a decline in health can be difficult for everyone involved. Whether it is a gradual decline or sudden impairment due to an illness or injury, acknowledging one’s loss of control over financial and medical decisions can be challenging. Love and support from family and trusted friends can help an aging loved one deal with changes, but if there is a concern that they will be too impaired to make decisions for themselves, you may all want to consider legal ways to give someone the authority to act on your behalf. will provide optimal sound while eliminating background noise and feedback.
Watching someone you love decline physically or mentally can take an emotional toll, but prioritizing your loved one’s needs will help you get organized and stay focused on what you need to do to protect and care for them. The conversation about control over important decisions between a loved one and a caregiver or family member may not be an easy one to have, but respect and compassion can go a long way in establishing the trust necessary to make everyone comfortable. If you feel that you or a loved one will need help making medical or financial decisions, discuss some of the following ways you can be legally authorized to act in someone’s best interests if they are unable to do so on their own.
Power of Attorney
If a loved one becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves, a durable power of attorney can authorize someone else to immediately take over financial decisions and retain control for the remainder of their life. You can decide on the parameters of the power of attorney and pre-determine the scope of its authority. It can include anything from access to bank accounts, signing tax returns, selling stocks, to managing real estate holdings, but it is up to the “principal,” or the person who is appointing someone, to make this decision. A conventional power of attorney may be used if someone is suffering from a decline in cognitive functions, dementia, or Alzheimer’s Disease. The conventional power of attorney only begins when a person becomes mentally incapacitated. A medical or healthcare power of attorney will grant someone the authority to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so. Picking someone as your health care proxy is an important decision. Choose someone you trust and make sure they have a clear understanding of your wishes.
A living will is a written, legal document that outlines what medical treatments you want or do not want in terms of procedures, pain management, organ donation, and more. Discuss your concerns, questions, and wishes with your physician, family members, and trusted advisers. You will address end-of-life care, including:
- Mechanical ventilation
- Tube feeding
- Use of antibiotics
- Palliative care
- Organ and tissue donations
A living will can be separate from a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or DNI (Do Not Intubate) order. Discuss your wishes with your physician and document any orders in your medical records.
Social Security Representative
If you would like someone to represent you in any dealings with the Social Security Administration, you may appoint someone by filling out the Appointment of Representative Form (SSA-1696). This representative does not need to be an attorney, but they will need to adhere to standards of conduct.
The VA Fiduciary Program
The United States Veterans Affairs Fiduciary Program was designed to help protect veterans who are unable to manage their own financial affairs. A fiduciary, chosen by the beneficiary, is appointed to oversee the financial management of VA benefit payments. Although a family member or trusted friend is usually the first choice for the appointment, the VA can suggest qualified individuals who can serve as a fiduciary.
If you or a loved one needs someone to make vital financial and/or healthcare related decisions due to illness or age, please review your options carefully. Legal arrangements can be made to give your loved one the peace of mind that decisions will be made according to their wishes.