Family caregivers have the ability to support and protect aging loved ones — with the right tools. Caregiving for older adults can also have legal implications for both the caregiver and the aging loved one being cared for. For example, caregivers may need to make important legal decisions on behalf of their loved ones. They may also face legal challenges related to their caregiving responsibilities. In this blog, we take a closer look at legal considerations for family caregivers.
Power of Attorney for a Parent or Older Adult
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a caregiver to make decisions on behalf of their loved one. This can include decisions related to healthcare, finances, and legal matters. Caregivers should ensure that they have a power of attorney in place so they are prepared to make decisions on behalf of their loved one if necessary.
If you have concerns about your parent's ability to handle their financial or medical decisions as they age, you should learn about powers of attorney (POA). Powers of attorney allow your parent to name you or someone they trust to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf when they can't.
An attorney can help you identify which “powers” would be most appropriate and beneficial for your loved one based on the circumstances. Types of powers of attorney include medical and financial powers of attorney. A medical care power of attorney appoints another individual to make health care decisions. A financial power of attorney authorizes another individual to manage financial matters such as paying bills, paying taxes, managing investments, and managing bank accounts.
While a power of attorney can be extremely helpful in supporting your loved one, it can cause friction among family members. Careful consideration should be given to who should be the power of attorney.
Guardianship for an Aging Loved One
In some cases, caregivers may need to seek guardianship of their loved one. Guardianship is a legal process that allows a caregiver to make decisions on behalf of their loved one when they are unable to do so themselves. Caregivers should consult with an attorney to determine if guardianship is necessary and to navigate the legal process since a court must appoint you as guardian.
In cases where an aging loved one hasn’t named a power of attorney before becoming incompetent, or the person they chose has been accused of mishandling their affairs, obtaining guardianship can turn into a lengthy and expensive process.
A guardianship might be considered if a parent refuses to assign a power of attorney but cannot manage medical care or finances independently. A guardianship might also be considered in cases where a parent cannot sign a power of attorney because of dementia or memory loss.
Employment Law Considerations for Family Caregivers
Caregivers who are employed may face legal challenges related to their caregiving responsibilities. This can include issues related to leave, discrimination, and workplace accommodations. Caregivers should know their rights under employment law and seek legal assistance if necessary.
There are federal laws in place to protect your ability to care for a parent when amidst a crisis, but limitations to these protections also exist. For example, the family medical leave act provides eligible employees with the ability to use job-protected leave to care for a parent with a serious health condition, including providing psychological comfort. However, you must be employed for a specified amount of time, and there are limitations to the length of time you can take for leave.
Also worth considering, unless you have vacation or sick leave time banked up, many caregivers find themselves using family medical leave only to realize that there may be a significant financial impact on your family.
Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)
A Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) Order instructs paramedics and other healthcare professionals not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other life-support measures (except for comfort) in an emergency.
Two witnesses and the person's physician must sign the order. The DNR order becomes part of the medical chart, and the completed form must be carried, or the person must have a special identification bracelet or tattoo, which has become increasingly more common for those with a terminal illness.
Preventing and Prosecuting Elder Abuse
Elder fraud is an act targeting older adults in which attempts are made to deceive with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented. Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older adult's funds or property.
Losing money or possessions to scams, fraud, and exploitation can be especially devastating to older adults, who may not be able to earn back what they’ve lost.
While those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are considered the most vulnerable, even cognitively sound elders are susceptible to scams and other fraudulent activity.
Just how common is elder fraud? Elder fraud cost Americans over the age of 60 more than $966 million in 2020, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Financial fraud doesn't just impact your loved one's bank account. It can significantly impact their mental and emotional well-being.
If your loved one has fallen victim to a fraudulent scheme, keep a close eye on their bank account and other personal accounts for suspicious activity and help them change their passwords.
Looking for more information on getting the proper documents in order for your loved one? Download our Legal and Financial Document Locator today to get started.