Employee Wellness

Caring for a Loved One? Get Started with a 5-Step Checklist

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With an estimated 39.8 million Americans providing some level of care for another adult, chances are someday you could take on the role as a caregiver for a family member or friend. Here's a checklist of items to consider to help you and your loved one take the journey together – and make things a little easier for both of you.

1. Discuss your loved one's medical, financial and legal situation.

This is understandably a difficult conversation to have. But make sure you take the necessary time for it, listen openly and work for an honest assessment of your loved one's situation regarding his or her current and future:

  • Physical and mental capacities.
  • Medical issues and requirements.
  • Living arrangements and financial situation.
  • Estate planning documents and beneficiaries in place.

2. Understand the person's wishes and needs.

After gaining an initial understanding of your loved one's situation, learn about his or her wishes and what will be important to them as you provide care on a daily basis, as well as when they approach the end of life. To help you get started, consider asking some of the following questions:

  • Do you wish to stay in your own home or will you need assistance?
  • If you're not able to make medical or financial decisions for yourself, is there someone you trust to make them on your behalf?
  • What kind of level of daily care, ongoing medical treatment or end-of-life care do you wish to receive?
  • What fears, concerns or joys do you want to share with others as we go on this journey together?
  • Have you considered how you would like funeral arrangements or financial obligations handled?

3. Get critical documents completed.

By now you've gained a better understanding of the expectations, needs and concerns of your loved one. This enables you to move forward and create the necessary documents you need to ensure your loved one is cared for appropriately. These include:

  • Health care power of attorney: This is a document that designates an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient. This decision-making power is limited to periods of time when the patient is unable to make decisions on his or her own.
  • HIPAA representative: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that helps protect the privacy of patients. Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies are required to follow HIPAA rules. This means they can only share medical information with the patient or the patient's personal representative, as dictated by this document.
  • Living will: Also known as an advance directive, a living will details a patient's wishes regarding end-of-life care. This document goes into effect in terminal situations when a patient is incapable of making his or her own decisions.
  • Durable power of attorney: This document names an individual to manage the patient's affairs beyond just medical care. This document allows access to financial accounts and gives the person decision-making authority.
  • Last will and testament: This outlines final directions for who will receive a person's assets, real estate and personal property when he or she dies. The will also identifies a person (executor) to carry out these orders and a person (guardian) to care for any children under the age of 18.

4. Determine living arrangements and financial requirements.

Your loved one's wishes for living arrangements may not match up with the daily medical or personal care he or she needs. Having that initial discussion will help you both get on the same page regarding living arrangements and how the financial requirements of caregiving, medical care, etc. will be met on an ongoing basis.

This step also involves letting the appropriate or appointed people know the status and location of the person's checking and savings accounts, as well as if any financial planning has been conducted to deal with long-term care needs or funeral arrangements.

5. Take time to care for yourself.

Finally, and probably most importantly, as you consider the effort that goes into caregiving, it's important to understand how it requires you to balance family, work and financial commitments with a potentially demanding and time-consuming role. To help you through the journey, ask yourself:

  • Can I get the support I need from family and friends to work it all out?
  • Do I have the potential to work a part-time or flexible work schedule to allow for more time with my loved one?
  • Is taking time off through FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) an option in this situation?
  • Will I be able to take time for myself to do the things that will refresh my mind and body as needed?

An honest assessment and just talking about possible scenarios in advance can help ease stress and ensures everyone supports your decisions.

As a caregiver, navigating medical and legal issues can be stressful and challenging. ARAG legal insurance offers affordable access to Network Attorneys and Eldercare Specialists who can provide the services and guidance you need to make informed decisions regarding the care of your loved ones.

With  an ARAG legal insurance plan, you also get access to an online catalog of state-specific, attorney-approved legal document templates, including all of the five essential documents mentioned above.

Interested in learning more about how legal insurance can benefit you and your employees? Contact us for more information.

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