(50PlusPrime) LATHRUP VILLAGE, MICHIGAN --
Effective care giving depends on keeping a great deal of information in order and up-to-date. Often, long-distance caregivers will need to have information about a parent’s personal, health, financial, and legal records.
If you have ever tried to gather and organize your own personal information, you know what a chore it can be. Gathering and organizing this information from far away can seem even more challenging. Maintaining up-to-date information about your parent’s health and medical care, as well as finances, home ownership, and other legal issues, let's you get a handle on what is going on and allows you to respond quickly if there is a crisis.
If you do not see your parent often, one visit may not be enough time for you to get all the paperwork organized. Instead, try to focus on gathering the essentials first; you can fill in the blanks as you go along. You might begin by talking to your parent and his or her primary caregiver about the kinds of records that need to be pulled together. If a primary caregiver is already on the scene, chances are that some of the information has already been assembled. Talk about any missing information or documentation and how you might help to organize the records.
Your parents may be reluctant to share personal information with you. Explain that you are not trying to invade their privacy or take over their personal lives—you are only trying to assemble what they (and you) will need in the event of an emergency. Assure them that you will respect their privacy and keep your promise. If your parents are still uncomfortable, ask if they would be willing to work with an attorney (some lawyers specialize in elder affairs) or perhaps with another trusted family member or friend.
Tips for The Long Distance Care Giver
Keep track of important information in a binder. Use dividers to separate medical, financial and legal. Getting organized is key. Find all legal, financial, and insurance documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills, and power of attorney. Identify bank accounts, titles, sources of income and obligations, and auto, life, homeowner's, and medical insurance papers. Review these documents for accuracy and update them if necessary. Store documents in a secure place such as a safe, keep an additional copy of this binder with you in case of emergency.
Create a team. Ask for help from people in your parents’ community, such as other relatives, neighbors, longtime family friends and members of religious, civic, and social organizations. Ask them to let you know immediately if they recognize a possible problem.
Planning will minimize poor decisions and unnecessary stress. These topics may be difficult to talk about, but they help ensure that your parents’ maintain decision-making authority even when incapacitated. Preplanning will also lessen family disagreements and protect family resources.
Things to consider now as part of the planning process.
• Will: your parents decide how to dispose of assets after death. If they already have one, review and update as needed.
• Power of attorney: gives a caregiver the authority to act on behalf your parent. Be sure the new HIPAA language is included, otherwise may not be valid.
• Trust: estate-planning document allows your parents to transfer assets and avoid probate and other legal problems.
• Joint ownership: makes it easier to gain access to your parents’ finances.
• Representative payee: A caregiver receives government checks for a parent who is unable to manage money.
• Medigap insurance: pays portion of medical bills not covered by Medicare.
• Consider housing options and assistance with ADLs: As transitions occur, your parents may need to move into a community that provides assistance and services or they may wish to stay in current home and bring someone in to provide the assistance.
If possible, bring the family together for a meeting. Decide with your parents what their primary needs are, who can provide assistance and what community resources would help. Summarize your agreement in writing. Keep in mind that family difficulties are typical. You may need to bring in Senior Options and Solutions, a family therapist or social worker to help.
Keep in mind that the best laid plans may need to be altered. As your parents’ needs may change, and helpers will come and go, you will need to be able to adjust and make changes.
The absolute most important thing to remember- You are no good to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself. Maintain good health, make time for yourself, set limits, and allow others to help!