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What Seniors Need to Know About Health Care Decisions

As you grow older, it is time to think seriously about health care decisions. senior man with advance directive in hositialThe wisest step seniors can take is to prepare for their future health care by considering some important legal issues.

What Is A Durable Power Of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney for health care is also referred to as a health care proxy. When you appoint someone to this position, he will have the authority to make health care decisions in your behalf. If your illness is to the extent that you cannot make your own decisions, your proxy will be able to speak for you.

Complications can arise if you do not have a health care proxy. If you have not granted anyone this authority, the decisions may be up to your health care providers. If this occurs, your doctor may not know your wishes, or he may ignore your wishes and do what he feels is best.

You should put careful thought into choosing a health care proxy. While you should reasonably assume the person will be available if his assistance is needed, you also need to know he will abide by your wishes. Before you prepare this document, discuss every aspect of your health care with the person you are considering. You need to know he will respect your decisions, even if he does not agree with them.

Most seniors choose close family members as their durable power of attorney. However, this is not a requirement. If you are not sure a family member will carry out your wishes, or if you have no close relatives, you can appoint a friend, your minister or priest, or any other adult you feel is appropriate.

What Is A Living Will?

A living will covers your end-of-life decisions. Its purpose is limited.

If you become ill or injured to the extent that death is in the foreseeable future, a living will informs your health care providers of your wishes regarding treatment. As examples, you may want your life to be extended as long as possible, even if you are in a coma, or you may object to life-extending procedures such as feeding tubes or breathing tubes.

Whether you want every procedure possible, or a do-not-resuscitate order, your wishes will be clearly stated in a living will.

What Is An Advance Directive?

While an advance directive includes your end-of-life decisions, it covers more information regarding your future health care. You do not have to be near death for an advance directive to come into effect. It can make your wishes clear to the health care providers if you are too ill to communicate.

The advance directive will let health care providers know what you do and do not want regarding medical treatment. Your health care proxy should also be named on your directive. As the directive covers your end-of-life decisions as well as your future health care decisions, you do not necessarily need a living will if you have an advance directive.

For Seniors Making Health Care Decisions

If you are uncomfortable with these topics, it is easy to make mistakes. While living wills and advance directives are often available in hospitals, you do not have to use the forms provided by your hospital. Although forms are available online, they may not be exactly what you want.

As advance directives and living wills are legal documents, consider asking your attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can prepare the documents to meet your specifications. Your lawyer can also help you find witnesses to make the documents legal and valid.

Both living wills and advance directives must be honored by health care providers. If the provider in charge of your care does not agree with or approve of your decision, he is obligated to turn your care over to a provider who will abide by it.

Do not allow anyone to pressure you into naming them as your health care proxy. This is a decision you need to make for yourself. You do not have to appoint a family member if you believe someone else would be more reliable.

The best time to address these issues is when you are reasonably healthy and sound of mind. This can greatly reduce your risk of someone attempting to override your decisions when you cannot speak on your own behalf.

Your future health care decisions and end-of-life decisions should not be anyone’s decisions but your own. When you have an attorney to assist you with these documents, they will be completely binding by law. You will be able to update or revise the documents any time you choose, but no one will be able to ignore or override your decisions even if you are at the end of your life or severely incapacitated. With these documents, and a suitable health care proxy, you can have peace of mind.

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End of Life Care: Making Sure Your Wishes are Met

No one wants to think about the end of his or her life. Unfortunately, though, doing so is entirely necessary. end of life planYou must make decisions about how you will receive medical care, under what circumstances you want medical help, and even about what will happen to your property once you pass on. Fortunately, there are legal tools available that will ensure your wishes are met even when you cannot speak for yourself.

Making Medical Decisions

For most, it’s easy to make a choice about life-saving medical treatment. So long as you have a say in the matter, you can easily dictate your wishes – you can let the doctor know with what procedures you are comfortable, and which boundaries you do not wish to cross. Problems occur when you are unable to voice those decisions yourself. If you are unconscious or unable to communicate, it will be up to the doctor to make those decisions for you – unless you plan ahead.

It has become increasingly popular for individuals to either grant medical power of attorney to a chosen individual, or to have a health care surrogate appointed on their behalf. While there are subtle distinctions between the two roles, they share the same general purpose – to make sure your wishes are carried out even when you are not able to do so. By investing another person with the power to make major medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so on your own, you can make sure that you are treated in the same manner that you would be treated if you were still conscious.

Life or Death Choices

In some situations, though, the decision goes far beyond what kind of treatments to pursue. For some, quality of life becomes a major concern. While doctors are charged with keeping their patients alive by whatever means possible, there are many who would rather end their suffering than live on in extreme pain or languish without their higher mental functions. Unfortunately, it is fairly uncommon for individuals to be able to tell a doctor this face to face.

If you have concerns about your quality of life after an accident or illness that leaves you near death, it is important that you have a living will. A living will contains the information necessary to inform a doctor of your wishes in the case of your inability to inform him or her on your own. While medical power of attorney is most often used to communicate a patient’s wishes as to the type of treatment, living wills are more often used to inform the relevant parties of the steps that should be taken when and if the possibility of recovery is in question.

Planning for Life After You

Your end of life decisions do not, however, end with your own life. You have accumulated at least some degree of wealth and property during your life, and it is important that you be able to distribute the things you have accumulated in a manner that honors your wishes. A good estate plan goes beyond the basics of a simple will and devises methods of dispensation that not only provide for your family, but that can do so in a manner that will reduce financial penalties.

A good estate plan handles dispensation of property, the care of any minor children, and can deal with issues ranging as far as the ownership of pets and the status of a family business. Estate plans provide individuals with access to wills, trusts, and other tools that can be used to ensure that anything left to friends or family will be used to its fullest extent. If you are worried about what you will leave behind, it is important to look into an estate plan.

End of life care is something about which everyone should be worried. Taking the time to figure out who will make medical decisions for you, how you will deal with the possibility of resuscitation after a life-changing accident, and the dispensation of your property after you are gone can help reduce the stress on your family. A bit of planning today will help you to ensure a more orderly future.

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What is Elder Law?

As people age, they often have legal concerns that did not exist when they were younger. The elderly person can benefit from an elder law attorney.

elder law book and gavelHealth Planning

It is always wise to prepare for unexpected health issues in advance. One example is a Living Will. The senior can have peace of mind, knowing his health care issues will be carried out if he is unable to speak for himself.

A second example is a power of attorney. The senior can choose a family member, a close friend, or another trusted person to act as his power of attorney. As this person will have the authority to make decisions and act on the senior’s behalf, the power of attorney should be chosen very carefully.

Well-Spouse Planning

The elderly person must take his or her spouse into consideration. A common example is what will happen to a spouse if the other spouse needs to enter a long-term care facility.

The elder law attorney can assist with this planning. The spouse who remains at home can continue to retain assets, and obtain the financial benefits for which he is qualified.

Capacity Concerns

An elderly person may be afraid of being declared incompetent. Families occasionally take this approach when they want a senior’s assets or benefits to which they are not entitled.

An attorney can protect the senior’s rights. The senior will not have to worry that a guardian will be appointed when he does not legitimately need one.

Resident Rights

Seniors who reside in long-term care facilities may find their rights are being dismissed or violated. There are times when neglect and abuse do occur.

The senior who has an elder law attorney has somewhere to turn if he experiences these issues. He has the right to be healthy, happy, and safe.

Employment Concerns

Many healthy seniors prefer to work. Whether he needs the income or simply enjoys the activity, he may encounter age discrimination.

As he cannot be denied a job he is capable of performing, an attorney who specializes in elder law can help. The senior can continue to earn money, and enjoy all the benefits of working.

Wills And Estate Planning

The senior may not have a will at all, or he may need to make changes to reflect changes in his life. He may also need to provide financial assets or guardianship for a minor child or a child with special needs.

The attorney can help the senior prepare and finalize a will. Whether the senior only needs a simple will, or must provide a trust for certain family members, it should be taken care of by an elder care attorney.

Financial Planning

Whether an elderly person plans to enter a long-term care facility or he prefers to stay at home, financial planning is essential for a healthy, happy retirement.

Some elderly persons have accumulated savings or investments while others do not have these resources for their golden years. Regardless of his personal financial situation, the senior will need money to live on as he ages. His attorney can provide the best advice and assistance for his financial matters.

Why Choose An Elder Law Attorney?

Any licensed attorney can provide assistance to seniors. However, an attorney who specializes in elder law can be the wisest choice.

In Florida, an attorney can be board-certified to practice elder law. The attorney who chooses this option must meet a number of requirements. He does not simply decide to specialize and receive approval. Only after he has fulfilled the requirements can he be certified.

Many concerns connected to aging can be handled by an elder law attorney. Seniors can have fewer complications in their lives, and peace of mind.

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As a Senior – Consider an Elder Law Attorney for Your Legal Planning

 

 

Elder Law Attorney for Elder Senior's Needs

Elder Law Attorney for Elder Senior’s Needs

Attorneys are part of our planning at different stages in life. When we make a big decision, we want it to be legal and “kosher” – in other words, done right. Learn about ways an Elder Law attorney can be of specific help to you or your aging family members. 

The four big things a consultation with an Elder Law Attorney may be a prudent thing to do are:

Assigning a Power of Attorney to a trusted person in your life.

Assigning a Medical Surrogate or Proxy– Advance Directives.

Creating some type of Trust to protect your assets.

Structuring Wills, Taxes and the like in the most favorable manner for your needs.

You can think of of an Elder Law attorney as a type of ‘specialist” – sort of like having your primary physician and a cardiologist.

Here in Florida, many clients are “Snowbirds”. We have found it essential to check which legal papers need to also be accepted in Florida as well as your State of Origin. Not dealing so much with the financial planning for a client, we see much more of the need for Medical Directives and a limited, durable Power of Attorney since we work mostly with clients dealing with an acute or chronic medical condition. Many people say “but I have a Will”.  That is needed to make your wishes for the transferring of things, property, heirlooms, etc – but not for your wishes for end of life, medical treatment. Remember, the Will is read after the burial. Get your end of life wishes written down in a legal fashion and distributed to the appropriate parties, including your main physicians.  Choose the person who can carry out your wishes, not necessarily your first choice.

An Elder Law attorney can do other things as well. Many will offer a Free Consultation. You can go to their professional site:  www.naela.org. Boca Home Care Services works with several established Elder Care Lawyers in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Information and referral are keys to our overall approach to Elder Care Services.

A good Elder Law attorney will be knowledgeable about medical and emotional issues connected to aging. They will also work with many other Elder Care professionals whose services you may need at different times and for different reasons.

As in all serious life matters, you want to work with an expert who can orchestrate the various players in the larger picture. A Geriatric Care Manager is one such professional, as is an Elder Law Attorney who will consult with your doctor’s, financial planners, family, accountant, insurance companies, Guardianship, GCM and so forth. As your Team Leader,  he or she will be able to furnish you with an individualized plan designed specifically for you and your unique personal needs.

 

 

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Managing Money – Another Caregiver Task

Boca Home Care Services keeps people, especially Seniors, safe and independent in their homes. We also help bolster the primary caregiver – usually a spouse or adult offspring. In addition to all that the caregiver is tasked with, finances can become quite a burden. It is very important and time consuming. Learn about some websites which can offer valuable information.

                                 

In addition to routine household finances, caregivers often have to learn to decipher complicated medical billing and learning about tax codes for seniors or other expenses beyond medications, such as home safety gadgets – grab bars, Medical Alerts or Personal Emergency Response Systems among other things. Unless you are a bookkeeper, accountant or naturally competent with finances, you likely will benefit from some help from professionals.

Boca Home Care Services recommends at least a consultation with an Elder Care Attorney and a Financial Planner well versed in Senior financial matters. You may need to help your aging loved one manage their funds for another 25 years after retirement. You would also learn about different government and community programs or benefits such as Veteran’S benefits, Holocaust Survivor programs, Diversion programs and medicaid.

There are also many websites geared to money management for Caregivers and Seniors. We do not endorse any site but want to share them with you to explore on your own. Remember, just because it is on the Internet – doesn’t make it true. But there is a lot of true and helpful information to be gleamed. Beware though, not everyone is comfortable with having accounts and financial information online. It is a personal decision.

Mint.com is excellent for pulling in all your accounts and expenditures to see where you are spending your money. It will help you with money management.

Manilla.com will pull in all of your bills and remind you when each needs to be paid.

Bankrate.com will help you to find the best deals on credit cards and other products tied to interest rates.

Annualcreditreport.com will let you know your annual credit report which is your legal right.

Besides nifty sites, a few simple things can be done to help an elderly parent and the caregiver to keep track of finances and make sure the bills are paid on time.

If you are comfortable in doing so, give up some of your financial tasks to a trusted family member – most likely a son or daughter.

Or, take 3 of your regular bills; electric, cable, maintenance for instance and go to your bank to get “automatic bill paying” added to your account. YOU WILL STILL NEED TO RECORD THE DEBITS IN YOUR CHECKBOOK, but the bank will automatically pay these bills.

To manage another’s money, you may want to consolidate accounts, combine credit cards and chart out a weekly or monthly budget for them.

 

 

 

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