Does your family have a caregiver for an aging family loved one?  You and your family should be aware that November stands as a guiding light for those who dedicate their lives to care for their loved ones, as it marks the National Family Caregiver Month. Many devoted caregivers often step in to assist aging parents or family loved ones struggling with health and cognitive challenges. In fact, did you know that approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child?

For caregivers, it is wonderful how their emotional and physical endeavors are frequently pointed out and celebrated. However, there is a complex web of legal and financial planning that they need help with and they do not know how to start or who to turn to.  We want to cast some light on this important facet of caregiving with seven estate planning tips tailored for these unsung heroes and ensure that they have the support they need to complete these essential tasks. 

1. Recognize the role of the caregiver.  The role of the caregiver is extremely valuable. Their sacrifices and work often extend beyond emotional and physical care to include vital financial and legal decisions.  Accessibility to financial resources needs to be available. Caregiving often carries financial strains. Be sure caregivers know about financial aid, benefits, and resources to help alleviate these financial pressures. Also, families should discuss if there are resources available within the family of the person being cared for to help compensate for the caregiver’s potential inability to work in their current job.

2. Florida estate planning documents should be up-to-date.  If the caregiver for your family loved one makes financial decisions, current Florida estate planning documents are non-negotiable. These documents validate the legal authority of the caregiver in crucial decision-making processes.  Also, designating a backup is crucial. Estate planning should not only focus on the present but also designate an alternate decision-maker in order to be sure there is someone to lean on if the primary caregiver is unable to act in this role.

3. Creating a Florida durable power of attorney should be a priority.  Why? Because a Florida durable power of attorney equips caregivers with the legal right to make financial decisions on behalf of their loved one. It is a protective shield against potential legal obstacles that might arise when managing finances. Be very aware, though, it can only be created when the person being cared for has capacity. Therefore, it is important not to put off getting this critical Florida estate planning tool in place.

4. There is a need to know the difference between estate planning and elder law. The aspect of elder law is ever-changing but it can, with the guidance of your Florida estate planning and elder law attorney, help not only find good long term care options for aging loved ones who need support but also a way to pay for it. There may also be government benefits available to help.  We recommend that you have regular consultations with a Florida estate planning and elder law firm. This type of law firm can help caregivers stay compliant and informed.

5. An important part of caregiving is being organized. In addition to caring for your family loved one, your caregiver needs to be organized, which can be a challenging skill for many. In fact, a caregiver’s role can be administratively demanding. Be sure to encourage and assist your caregiver to develop and maintain a systematic record covering medical details, financial documents, and legal paperwork.  Also, they will need to maintain a daily record of medicines, activities, visits and any incidents that may occur. They also need to keep a calendar of doctor or other medical appointments, family visits or events out so everyone involved may see them.

6. Be sure to meet with your qualified Florida estate planning and elder law attorney. Start a discussion with your Florida estate planning and elder law attorney about the type of health care planning documents the person being cared for needs. Who should make the health care decisions when the person being cared for is unable to act for themselves? In addition, be sure the trusted person selected to act in this capacity is comfortable following through with the needs of the aging loved one.

7. There must be an open line of communication. Caregiving is a journey that should be clear, coherent and understandable. Whether you are aiding a caregiver or are one yourself, ensure communication lines remain transparent and open.

Finally, caregiving is rewarding, but it is also extremely challenging. As we commemorate National Family Caregiver Month, we should make every effort to arm these dedicated individuals with the best resources and knowledge available. A good and solid legal and financial foundation is not just a safety net; it is a testament to our commitment to supporting their invaluable work.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. At David H. Jacoby Elder Law Advocate, P. A., we are focused on providing thorough, ethical, and timely solutions for our clients and their loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.