The Legalities of Elder Care

When you assume care of an elderly relative, there are many legal documents and formalities that may need to be completed. These should be taken care of as soon as possible and, if the person you are taking into your care can help you, it will make the process go more smoothly. Keep in mind that when someone completes these documents, they are, in fact, giving up some control of their own lives. Only a very close friend or family member with no conflicting motives should be given these powers.

  • Letter of Instruction A letter of instruction provides important information and instructions a caretaker may need. It includes the contact information for close family and friends, a list of assets and liabilities, a list of insurance policies and information on all financial accounts.
  • Will A will designates who will receive major assets after a person dies. It also includes guardianship of any children under the age of 18. Smaller items such as heirlooms, furniture and other household goods, should be addressed in a separate testamentary letter. This letter should be referenced in the will.
  • Powers of Attorney If the people under your care are unable to make decisions for themselves because they are somehow incapacitated, you will need to have power of attorney to make these decisions for them. Of course, they will need to create powers of attorney before they are actually needed. There are two main types of powers of attorney:   
    1. A durable power of attorney gives a person, or people, authority to manage finances and other legal affairs if the person needing care is not capable of managing these. It can be long-term or short-term and allows the party that has power of attorney to use money to provide care, sign tax returns, handle investments and other important matters.
    2. A healthcare power of attorney allows the person designated to make healthcare decisions if the person being cared for is unable to make these himself or herself. For example, someone holding power of attorney may be able to decide against dangerous surgery if he or she feels that is in the patient's best interest.
  • Living Will A living will is a clear statement about wishes regarding artificial life support. If a person's brain is dead yet the body remains functioning only with the help of life support, a living will directs attendants in what choice to make - to keep the machines functioning or turn them off.

Elder Care

Caring for the elderly is a challenge and can be overwhelming if not given proper consideration. Factors to consider include the choice between professional and home care, as well as a number of financial and legal issues.

Long-Term Care

For those who can no longer take care of themselves, long-term care is a broad term for many different options including nursing homes and in-home care. Long-term care can be incredibly expensive - $40,000 per year or more. Prescription drugs, legal fees and other costs can creep up quickly as well. But insurance premiums can also be fairly expensive - up to $6,000 per year. Decide what type of care you want, find out the uninsured cost for it and compare it to the insurance premium that would cover it. This will help you determine what coverage is right for you.

Long-term care usually consists of some combination of skilled care, intermediate care and custodial care. Skilled care is the most expensive service involving round-the-clock care by a registered nurse under the close supervision of a physician. Intermediate care is less intense and includes occasional nursing and rehabilitative care under the supervision of medical personnel. Custodial care is home care. It provides for the basic, non-medical needs of a patient such as cooking, bathing and other day-to-day needs.

Selecting An Insurance Provider

Long-term care insurance is becoming increasingly popular as a way of easing the financial strain that long-term care can impose. Shopping around for long-term care insurance is important because all policies are different and you will need to find a policy that will fit your particular needs and budget.

With the wide variety of services that are available, choosing the right insurance provider can be difficult. There are a few questions, however, that will help you decide.

  • How are the benefits paid? Are they sent directly to the provider or do you have to pay the charges and receive reimbursement?
  • Who determines if the patient needs home health or nursing home care?
  • What level of care does the policy provide?
  • What is the waiting period from when the service begins to when benefits are paid?
  • Does the policy cover Alzheimer's disease and related disorders?