How to Care for an Aging Parent

Many adults are overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for an aging parent. It is a fine line between allowing your aging parents to remain autonomous and in control of their own decisions and doing what is in their best interest. Accordingly, it is important for many families to make arrangements for care before a crisis happens.
Those arrangements often include:
·         A Power of Attorney: a power of attorney appoints someone to act on your behalf if you lack the mental or physical capability to make your own decisions. The law requires that the person whom you appoint as your power of attorney make decisions that are in your best interest when you are unable to do so. For example, if you are in an accident or undergo surgery that leaves you unable to make your financial or business decisions, your power of attorney could do it for you. When you regain your mental capabilities then all of the decision making power reverts back to you and the person named in the power of attorney can no longer make decisions for you.
·         Living Wills: A living will provides specific directions to health care professionals about how you wish to manage your treatment if you are no longer able to communicate those wishes to them.
·          Health Care Proxies: A health care proxy appoints a person to make health care decisions for you should you become unable to make them yourself. The person appointed as your health care proxy must act as that person believes you would act if you were able to communicate your wishes and typically cannot contradict your living will.
·         An Estate Plan: This includes trusts and wills and determines how financial assets and personal belongings are distributed. 
If your parents are refusing to make the arrangements described above then you might need some help persuading your parents to discuss their options. In addition to describing the benefits of each of the arrangements listed above, you can explain what happens in the absence of each arrangement. Without a power of attorney, living will or health care proxy, for example, all medical and financial decisions will be made by the person named by state statute and your parent may not like or may not trust that person. Similarly, without an estate plan your parents’ assets will be distributed according to the intestate laws of your state and not necessarily according to their own wishes.
For the reasons, it is important for each of your parents to create a power of attorney, a living will, a health care proxy and an estate plan that reflects his or her wishes. That way your parents will remain in control of their lives and their assets.
If you need additional assistance caring for your aging parent then please contact an estate planning attorney or elder law attorney in your state. These attorneys are familiar with the emotional issues that often arise while making arrangements for the care of an older parent. They can help families understand the impact of their decisions and make the decisions that are in their best interest.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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