November is recognized as National Family Caregiver Month. This provides us with a time to acknowledge our selfless family members who pour their time, energy, and love into caring for a loved one. Often, these caregivers are assisting aging parents or other loved ones with declining health, physical limitations, or cognitive abilities. While the physical and emotional demands of caregiving are well known, there is a less-discussed aspect that is equally critical and that is the legal and financial planning.
- Recognize their contribution. Before diving into practical measures, start by appreciating the caregiver’s role. Acknowledge both their sacrifices and their dedication to helping a loved one and ask how you can help.
- Ensure estate planning documents are current. If a family caregiver is making financial decisions on behalf of an aging loved one, it is imperative to have updated estate planning documents. This ensures they are legally permitted to make essential decisions.
- Durable power of attorney. This document gives the caregiver the authority to act on the loved one’s behalf, especially concerning financial matters. Without it, they might face legal barriers when trying to help with bills, assets, or other financial affairs.
- Always have a backup. It is essential to not only have estate planning in place but to also designate a backup person. This ensures that someone can step in if the primary caregiver is unavailable or can no longer make decisions.
- Plan for respite care. Every caregiver needs a break. Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers, ensuring that they can rest and recharge. It might involve another family member taking over for a weekend or hiring professional services.
- Stay informed. Estate planning is continually evolving. Also know it is not elder law planning, which can allow you to both find the long term care support you need and ways to pay for it. Regularly consult with an estate planning and elder law planning attorney to ensure you are able to best support family caregivers and those they are caring for.
- Encourage self-care. Encourage the caregiver to set aside time for self-care. Whether it’s a hobby, exercise, or simply a day off, regular breaks can help them avoid burnout. You can help by ensuring the person they are caring for has another caregiver during this crucial respite time.
- Financial resources and stability. Caregiving can be expensive. Ensure the caregiver is aware of financial resources, benefits, and aids available to them, which can reduce the financial burden. There may also need to be a conversation within the family of how to pay the caregiver for the care provided as they may have left a job to take on this important task within the family.
- Stay organized. Encourage caregivers to maintain an organized system of records. This includes medical appointments, medications, financial documents, and any legal paperwork. Make sure there is a way for multiple family members to have access to these important records at all times.
- Keep open communication channels. Always have open lines of communication. If you are supporting a caregiver, check in with them regularly. If you are a caregiver, do not be afraid to voice your needs and concerns. Working together to support the loved one who needs care is the best way to make sure everyone is supported.
- Build a local community for caregivers. Many communities offer support groups specifically for family caregivers, workshops and seminars on caregiving, elder law, and estate planning. Attending these can not only build a sense of community but provide caregivers with invaluable resources and knowledge.
While caregiving is undeniably challenging, appropriate planning and support can make the journey smoother. During National Family Caregiver Month, and throughout the year, let’s commit to providing the best resources and support to those who care for our loved ones. Ensuring they have the right legal and financial framework in place is a step in the right direction.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We know you may have questions about this, and many other, estate planning issues. At Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services. By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.