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Legal considerations for caregivers

lawContributed by William Hicks

  • Most relationships between a PD caregiver and care receiver include shared legal responsibilities. These include Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives (living wills), wills, property titles, and car titles. The caregiver must recognize when the care receiver is not competent to carry out the responsibilities of these documents. In many cases, the responsibilities and decisions conveyed by the documents are assigned to the care receiver on behalf of the caregiver. If you begin to recognize that the care receiver is no longer able to make decisions in your best interest, change the documents accordingly.
  • At some point, the PD sufferer may become unable to make appropriate decisions on his or her own behalf. Taking the necessary steps to have the care receiver declared incompetent and a guardian appointed is a heartbreaking personal decision that most of us will chose not to make. However, the caregiver must recognize that having a guardian appointed may, at some point, be necessary. Consultation with an attorney who practices elder law may be the appropriate first step and should be taken sooner rather than later.
  • Develop and promulgate a contingency care-giving plan. Reality is that you are one accident or one major medical emergency away from being unable to perform as caregiver. If you are not able to function as caregiver due to your own aging or a compromising emergency, your plan should specify the regimen of care and who is responsible for ensuring continuation of that regimen. Ensure the individuals and organizations that assume care-giving responsibilities have the contingency plan and that details of the care regimen are kept current.
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