Providing care for an aging parent can come with a lot of responsibilities. While some may come naturally, others may be unfamiliar and require time and patience to get accustomed to.
There are a multitude of scenarios in which you may need to handle the affairs of a parent or other adult. One of the common duties of a caregiver is to oversee daily arrangements and finances. These matters can be challenging and affect those involved in different ways.
Knowing what your options and resources are as a caregiver could make this commitment less stressful. Here are four important tips that caregivers and their parents should consider:
1. Assign power of attorney (POA)
If the parent is having difficulty and needs help, granting power of attorney (POA) to the caregiver may be a prudent decision. With POA, which is a signed, legal document, the caregiver will be able to make legal, financial and health decisions for the individual(s) they are caring for. The parent can grant authority to deal with one particular issue (a specific POA) or the right to handle the majority of their affairs (a general POA).
For instance, a specific POA can be assigned to only handle health care decisions or business interests. Their power is specific to one duty. A general POA, on the other hand, has authority over all major matters. POA laws vary by state so it is important to know your permissions and limitations before you submit your application.
2. Research public benefits
In the role of adult caregiver, it is very important to be aware of the federal, state and local government programs available. For example, Social Security benefits can be withdrawn as early as 62 years old or as late as age 70. Medicare coverage can start the first day of the month of a person’s 65th birthday under certain circumstances. And if one of your parents served in the military, Veterans and their spouses may qualify for a variety of special benefits.
To get started, you can gather all relevant information regarding your parent’s health, income, assets, military service, etc. Next, go to a free database service such as BenefitsCheckUp.org and see what benefits your parents are eligible for. BenefitsCheckUp is a free service of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and searches over 2,500 federal, state and private benefits programs based on the credentials you enter. If your parents do qualify for certain benefits, you can apply for many of the programs online or print and mail in the application forms.
3. Recruit family assistance
If caregiving is too much for one person to handle, it may be in the best interest of everyone to help recruit additional family members. Siblings and close family members could split up the responsibilities to balance the load and take pressure off the main caregiver. Some affairs that family members could divide include:
- Money and finances - Who in the family is the best at money management? This task could cover duties such as daily bills, monthly expenses and inheritance. Some affairs may require a POA.
- Living arrangements - There may come a time when the decision is made that a parent no longer can live alone. This may involve moving parents in with a family member or admitting them to an assisted living facility.
- Caregiving arrangements - If it becomes necessary, can you afford full-time, live-in medical care? If not, a decision may need to be made on a schedule for visits among willing family members to ensure the wellbeing of the parents. It may also be crucial to manage or assist with their medication use.
- Medical decisions - Who is the most comfortable making tough choices regarding medical decisions? There may be differences of opinion when it comes to hospitalization and treatment and but it may be prudent to have one person in charge of making the ultimate judgments.
4. Seek professional advice
If the caregiver has no experience with money management or legal matters, it might be beneficial to hire a professional for certain tasks. Missteps with investments, taxes or hospital bills could result in heavy damages for the parents and caregivers as well. Hiring a financial planner, accountant or daily money manager may lessen the risk of mismanagement and give the caregiver more time to focus on other duties.
If you need help choosing the best finance professional for your needs, you can review this informative article on financial planners by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Take things one step at a time
As you begin the caregiving process, utilize the resources available to you and take things one step at a time. You may not have experience with legal matters or coordinating medical care but you can achieve great results with patience and commitment. Most of all, remember why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for.