Legal Aspects to Consider for Elder Care in California
Taking care of someone in their elder years is a difficult task. There are a variety of things to consider from the physical and emotional demands of the legal aspects of care. Even with the support of friends or a reliable Los Angeles elder care attorney, it’s still a great deal to take on. On top of the various demands involved with caring for a friend or family member, there are financial considerations. Most people who assist in elderly care do so out of compassion or obligation; they aren’t being paid.
Whether you’re already caring for an elderly person or expect that you will be soon, here are some of the legal aspects you should consider:
Standard of Care
The first thing to really consider is if you are even able to meet the appropriate level of care for the person involved. If you are unable to appropriately take care of this person by yourself, it’s possible that Adult Protective Services could force you to place your loved one in a nursing facility.
But whether your loved one is being cared for at home or in a nursing facility, there are checks to make sure they aren’t being abused physically, mentally, financially, etc. These checks come from people like doctors, at-home nurses, and other public servants. If they suspect there is some kind of abuse, even without intention, they might call the authorities. Since laws vary from state to state, it’s wise to consult with an elder law attorney in Los Angeles before making any significant decisions.
Caring for someone is already stressful in itself, and worrying about legal issues will only make things downright unbearable. If you’re not sure you can handle being someone’s primary caregiver, it might be best to hire someone to help or completely take over.
Power of Attorney
An elderly person who can no longer take care of themselves may need help making decisions. The person you’re caring for may suffer from dementia or other disabilities that make them incapable of making sound decisions. Even if that’s not the case now, it could be the case in the future. There may also be mobility issues that keep this person from getting out to deal with different matters.
A power of attorney allows one person to grant another person the ability to make legal decisions on their behalf. This includes signing paperwork, opening and closing accounts, and a whole lot more. But more importantly: the right power of attorney grants you the appropriate financial access to pay medical and other bills. A medical power of attorney allows you to make critical medical decisions if the person you are caring for is incapacitated.
As you can imagine, creating a legal power of attorney can be complicated. You’ll want to meet with your Los Angeles elder law lawyer to ensure everything is accurate and legal. The person granting a power of attorney has options as to what kinds of powers you’ll get. Your elder law attorney can help determine which is best for your specific situation.
There are four types of power of attorney that each has a unique role and purpose:
- General Power of Attorney. This allows the agent (you) to perform any act as the principal (the person who receives your care). You would be able to manage finances, open accounts, and so on. This arrangement is terminated when the principal becomes incapacitated, revokes the agreement, or passes away.
- Durable Power of Attorney. This arrangement is similar to that of a general power of attorney. The big difference is that the arrangement is not terminated when the principal is incapacitated.
- Special/Limited Power of Attorney. If the principal only wants to offer specific powers to an agent, this arrangement works wonderfully. The principle could, for example, assign an agent the ability to sell a home or access particular accounts.
- Springing Durable Power of Attorney. This arrangement only comes into action after a certain event happens. For example, the principle could elect an agent for specific tasks if they become incapacitated. The agent has no power until this event springs them into action.
A living will is an important document that outlines someone’s wishes if they become incapacitated or encounters a medical condition that doesn’t allow them to make decisions for themselves. A living will also describes situations where that person wants to be placed on life support or what kind of life support is acceptable and for how long.
While a healthcare power of attorney legally allows medical decisions, it’s much more challenging to do at the time the decision is needed. Emergency situations often involve heightened emotions or pressure from family members and friends. A living will allows the principal to make their decisions beforehand.
While you may be taking care of another person, you aren’t necessarily on your own when it comes to paying for everything. Programs like Medicaid, Medi-Cal, and Social Security exist to help those who need it. Getting these benefits involves more than merely filling out an application. These programs can get complicated and may require extensive planning.
Even if you’re not planning on caring for someone for a few years down the line, a meeting with a Los Angeles elder law attorney can make a huge difference. An attorney knows all about government assistance programs and can help you plan for the future.
Other Things to Consider
Playing the role of a caregiver can be difficult, especially if you’re caring for someone who used to care for you, like a parent or grandparent. It’s essential that you find a support network and focus on your own wellness as well. It’s easy to get wrapped up in caring for someone, which can put you in danger of burnout, resentment, and more. Take some time to learn about aging and what to expect, especially if your loved one is sick or terminal and never be afraid to reach out for help. Whether it’s from an at-home nurse, hospice care worker, or other family members to share some of the load or to give you a break.
Ultimately, you want to be prepared for the role of caregiver. From making sure to take care of yourself, to getting the appropriate legal help; don’t just jump into caring for someone. Luckily, our elder law attorney is well-versed in all aspects of elder law and care. Most even have access to an extensive network of other professionals who can help. Taking care of a loved one is a great responsibility, but you’re not in it alone. You can do this.