At some point in your life, it is inevitable that you will need a caregiver. This person could be a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, or even a friend. The role of caregiver is often a new concept for many people, so here are some tips to help choose your caregiver and make a plan for caregiving.
First, it is important to understand the statistics surrounding caregiving. Often, when people think of caregivers they think of paid workers in a hospital, nursing home, or daycare. However, unpaid caregivers provide more than 90% of our country’s long-term care. 83% of these caregivers are taking care of their family members.
It is no secret that long-term care is extremely expensive. Because of this, most people with assets or surviving dependents need a long-term care policy in addition to good health insurance. It is also important that these care and insurance policies are periodically reviewed so that they can be updated. In order to make sure you have a policy that is correct for you, you should talk to your insurance advisor about all the options. Some corporations may even offer group insurance and long-term plans. If money is a concern, the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program offers free medical and long-term care insurance analysis for elders and their families.
It is important to understand the differences among various legal documents involving caregiving. An advanced-care directive names at least one person who is able to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated in any way. In contrast, a power of attorney gives a person you trust authority to manage legal affairs if you are not able to. Finally, a will specifies how your assets and estate should be handled and distributed. Because these documents all place a significant amount of power in another person’s hands, it is important to choose a person you trust completely to exercise the authority involved.
Because crises involving caregiving are often unexpected, it is important to gather and file your insurance information in an easily accessible file. It is equally important for you to tell the person who will be responsible for you where that file is and what is in it. You may even want to consider giving them a copy of your insurance information to keep in their own files, so they will not be scrambling to find information if an emergency arises.
Another important organization tactic is to list all of your significant health history in a printed document. This will make routine medical appointments run more smoothly.
Additionally, it is wise to have practical plans in place for any “what-if” scenarios that may arise, including accidents, mental health impairments, hospitalizations, and out of town emergencies.
Keep a contact list of reliable people, agencies and facilities that you can turn to if you need help. This list can include preferred hospitals, doctors, retirement and elderly communities, rehab facilities, home-health agencies, pharmacies, and even people such as gardeners, pet-sitters, and handymen. If you are unsure who you should put on your list of contacts, you can call the free national Eldercare locator to determine where the closest agency on aging is located.
Make Things Easier
Most importantly, you should discuss exactly what you expect and what your loved ones should expect in the caregiving process. Keep information and resources in easily accessible places and test the plans you have created during smaller crises to see if they are viable options. Always remember that caregiving is not a one-person job, so there is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Attorney Van Smith offers advice to both caregivers and those in need of caregiving. Call us at 804.325.1245 (Richmond) or 757.941.4298 (Williamsburg) to set up a meeting with him.