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.

Financial considerations for caregivers

dollarContributed by William Hicks

  • Ensure that you, as caregiver, have individual or joint signature authority over all bank and financial accounts. It is a tragic situation when the PD sufferer is the only one who can sign the check and for irrational reasons, will not sign it. Many situations can quickly deteriorate when expenditures are necessary yet cannot be made. Do not delay to resolve signature authority as soon as it becomes clear that you will be the caregiver and that cognitive deterioration is a possibility.
  • Consider the roles of trustee. If there are trusts involved in the financial picture, at some point the care receiver will be unable to function as a trustee. As that time approaches and if the trust has such a provision, the care receiver should resign as a trustee so that an alternate trustee can be available to act if something happens to the caregiver who is co-trustee.
  • Gain an understanding of the family financial picture. Develop an understanding of electronic banking and bill payment. Obtain all passwords to gain access to account information. Understand your investments and become involved with the investment advisor or broker. The caregiver will ultimately be responsible for the portfolio and must know and trust the individuals who manage the investment portfolio. Understand retirement plan arrangements, including identifying who is the beneficiary and determining whether that beneficiary is competent to make required decisions. Understand your insurance plans, including identifying the insurance agent, policies that are active, and what are the conditions of those policies.

Action plan

planFebruary 10, 2015 – Having a positive mental attitude (PMA) is great, but a PMA must have an action plan.  I see a lot of Parkinson’s websites that emphasize the importance of keeping a PMA – and that is good.  Having a PMA, however, without an action plan, is like having a nice shiny car with no gas.  An action plan will give you something to shoot for – a goal to achieve.  Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?”  Having an action plan and a goal will help you maintain a PMA because you will be able to see your progress and you will be focused externally rather than internally.