July is National Sandwich Generation Month, a time to honor those who are caring for both their children and their aging parents. At the moment, many parents are not only parenting their children but also homeschooling them, and older children who have lost their jobs or could not return to college after spring break may now be living at home. The overburdened parents of these children may already be caring for one or more of their parents who cannot look after themselves, or they may be caring for aging parents who are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
The Value of Self-Care
Those who are also working have additional responsibilities beyond caregiving. When you’re juggling so many roles, help and emotional support from others can prevent burnout, depression, and anxiety. A healthy diet and exercise can relieve stress. Try to schedule a bit of time for yourself to do something you enjoy. Taking time out for yourself is not selfish; it can actually protect your ability to care for others.
Make sure Your Estate Planning Documents Are in Place
Check to make sure your aging parents or adult children have legally valid and up-to-date estate planning documents in place, and if they do not, encouraging them to have these documents prepared. If they have indicated that they would like you to act as their caregiver if the need arises, or if you have already assumed that role, you will need to know if you are legally permitted to act on their behalf if they become too ill to do so themselves. If you have the documents necessary to know and carry out your parents’ or child’s wishes, you can rest assured that they will receive the care they need.
- Financial power of attorney. A durable financial power of attorney is typically effective immediately while a springing power of attorney is effective upon some event occurring, typically incapacity. If you are named as your parents’ agent under a durable financial power of attorney, this authorizes you to make financial decisions and manage financial matters on your parents’ behalf. For example, you will be allowed to pay bills, manage financial accounts, or sell property on behalf of your parents if they can’t act on their own. As an agent under a power of attorney, you are legally bound to make the decisions that your parents would have made themselves (to the extent you know what they would have chosen). A financial power of attorney can also help if you need to handle financial matters on behalf of your adult child (over the age of eighteen), for example, cashing a paycheck or signing a lease on the child’s behalf.
- Medical power of attorney. A durable medical power of attorney enables you to manage your parents’ health care if they are unable to do so. The document will continue to be legally valid even if your parents develop a condition that renders them unable to communicate their wishes or make their own medical decisions. Certain decisions, for example, whether to hire a paid caregiver, may involve both medical and financial considerations and could be authorized under either or both the durable financial and medical powers of attorney. Keep in mind that your own opinions must be set aside because, as an agent under a power of attorney, you must make the decisions that your parents would have made. Considerations for both forms also apply to your adult children. Although you can make such decisions for a child when the child is a minor, an adult child has the right to designate a health care agent.
- Living will. Your parents’ or child’s living lets them share their end-of-life wishes in writing, so that you, as their caregiver, will not have to agonize over difficult decisions about artificial life support or feeding tubes, when to authorize a particular treatment, or whether medical professionals should resuscitate them if they stop breathing. No caregiver wants to be in the position of guessing what their parent or child would have wanted or suffering through disputes with family members who may have conflicting opinions.
- HIPAA authorization. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires medical records to be kept private unless an individual consents in writing to sharing of protected health information with a named individual. If you are your parents’ caregiver, they should fill out a HIPAA authorization permitting doctors to keep you informed about their medical conditions and treatments. This is also true if you are still providing health insurance or care for an adult child. Although your child may be covered by your health insurance, as a legal adult, your child’s medical information is protected under HIPAA, and you must be authorized to receive it.
Warning: The legal requirements for estate planning documents vary from state to state. If your parents have moved from another state to live with you, they may need to have their documents reviewed or redone to ensure that they are valid in your state.
Make sure these documents are completed before your parents become ill or incapacitated and unable to do so. If they develop dementia, for example, and are not able to understand the content of a power of attorney or another document, they will be legally unable to execute the document. In that case, you will have to go to a court and ask to be appointed as your parents’ guardian to care for their physical or medical needs or as their conservator to manage their financial affairs. This takes time and money and is completely avoidable if the documents are prepared in advance. It is also important that these documents be put in place by your adult child, because once your child is a legal adult, you can no longer automatically act on your child’s behalf.
We Are Here for You
Recognize your own emotional needs and develop the skills to manage the stresses of caregiving and reach out to others for help when you need it. We can put your mind at ease by help with your parent’s or child’s estate planning documents. Please contact us today so we can help your family feel confident that their interests are protected for the future.
You can use the link below to schedule a call with Gabriel Katzner, or just call us at 855.528.9637 to learn more about how best to plan today to protect those most important to you