November is National Family Caregiver Awareness Month. In honor of the nearly 44
million Americans who have provided care for a dependent loved one over the past 12 months, it is strongly recommended that family caregivers create a comprehensive file of up-to-date documents to better care for their dependents. This can be kept electronically or in a paper file, but should be easily accessible for administrative purposes or spur of the moment emergencies.
One of the most important features is a dependent loved one’s legal documents. These can serve as the foundation for all consequential financial, health care, and legal decisions made on their behalf. A durable power of attorney, for example, may allow a family caregiver to act as a dependent loved one’s lawful agent if he or she is too sick or incapable of making his or her own decisions. Another example could be a HIPAA release that ensures the caregiver can access the dependent person’s private medical records and forward them to appropriate health care professionals.
A comprehensive caregiving file should also contain records relating to the dependent person’s medical history, including:
• Past and current diagnoses
• Physician contact information
• Medication allergies and past side effects
• History of surgeries and relevant health conditions.
In addition, a medication list should be included and kept current, while a separate section should be devoted to insurance. This could include private medical insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug plans, long-term care insurance, and dental and vision insurance.
Documents pertaining to wills and trusts are also important, especially if they are intertwined with current financial obligations. For instance, a special needs trust can be created in certain circumstances to pay for living expenses without jeopardizing income limits for government benefit programs. Irrevocable trusts can be set up to pay bills, generate income and serve as an estate plan.
If you or someone you know is a family caregiver in need of more information, do not wait to contact an experienced attorney for guidance. We understand these matters and are your local law firm ready to help you. Do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a meeting.