The following article was written by Suzanne Asaff Blankenship, author of How To Take Care of Old People Without Losing Your Marbles – A Practical Guide to Eldercare. Suzanne speaks nationally on the topic of eldercare and is a passionate advocate for those responsible for the care of aging parents, in-laws and family members. Suzanne is a native of Longview; she has family in Marshall and all over East Texas. The opinions in this column are Suzanne’s and not intended to be legal advice.

You know the saying “The Devil’s in the Details”? Well, it’s true. It is especially true when it comes to legal paperwork and your aging parents.

If you don’t have the answers to the following questions, you are on the edge of a very precarious precipice should the inevitable elder emergency occur suddenly.

What is your response to these questions about your parents (those over 65)?

  •  Do you have your parents’ power of attorney (POA)? Either financial or medical, or both? If yes, do you have a copy of each? If no, do you know who does hold their POA?
  • Do you know if your parents have an updated will? Do you know where it is kept?
  • Do you know if your parents have advance directives? Do you know where they are or if their medical providers have copies?

If I had a dollar for every person who tells me “My parents are doing great. I’m sure they have all of the paperwork done. I don’t need to worry about that now.”, I’d be living high above the sea in the South of France.

Since I’ve not been collecting the dollar, I’m still in my house (and it’s not in the South of France).

Seriously though, having the paperwork in order is critical and I’ll tell you why.

(I’m not an attorney so this is not intended to be legal advice. It is intended to make you think about the status of your parents’ paperwork.)

Power of Attorney

  • A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to act as your elders’ health care agent.
  • If you want to have any say in the medical decisions of your parent(s) should they not be able to make their own decisions (for reasons either physically or mentally), you MUST hold their Medical Power of Attorney.
  • This applies to their medical records, speaking with their medical providers about tests, diagnoses, potential treatments, etc.
  • If your parent(s) needed to be moved from one medical facility to another and they couldn’t request it on their own, you’d need their Medical POA.
  • If you want to conduct any negotiations or transactions on behalf of your parents (should they ask you to or should they need you to act on their behalf), you MUST hold their Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management. This includes banking, bill payment, insurance dealings, hiring/firing, and other business affairs/transactions.
  • If your elder were in the hospital and needed a bill paid, you’d want a Financial POA. If you need to make an insurance claim, you’d need a Financial POA.
  • POA is only valid as long as your elder is living. Once your parent is deceased, POA is no longer valid. That’s where a will comes in to the picture.

Wills

  • Do you know if your elders have up-to-date wills? Have they been refreshed in the last 20+ years?
  • Do you know where to find the original will should you need to find it?
  • The Personal Representative(s) named in the will is the person(s) with legal standing to act after the elder has passed. As mentioned above, POA is no longer valid.
  • If your elder is cognitively impaired, you may find it challenging to update the will or start on a new one. You’ll need to prove that the elder is competent to make the decisions that they’re making in the will.

Advance Directive

  • This is commonly called a Living Will. In Texas, it is formally called “Directive to physicians and family or surrogates”.
  • The advance directive states your elder’s preferences related to life-saving medical procedures like CPR, intubation, artificial nutrition, etc. as well as many end-of-life decisions.
  • There are multiple documents in TX that come under the umbrella of Advance Directives:

o Directive to Physicians

o Medical Power of Attorney

o Out of Hospital Do-Not-Resusitate (DNR)

I’m hopeful that your elders have up-to-date paperwork and you have access to any copies that you need. If you don’t though, it is very wise to get started now to make sure you have what you need in the event of the inevitable elder emergency.

When you leave this until the emergency happens, you will likely be in panic mode (perhaps without the authority to do anything about it). Panic mode is never a great place to be when making important decisions. You want to be in care mode for those times.

Join me Tuesday, March 31, at the Agri-Life Harrison County Extension Office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I’ll be speaking on the topic of Prepare for the Care – Getting Ahead of the Elder Emergencies. The event is free, but you must register by Friday, March 27 by calling 903-935-8414. Suzanne originally had a program scheduled for March 31st. The event has been postponed to a later date due to the COVID-19. Be sure to be on the look out for the new day and time!

From Louraiseal McDonald, County Extension Agent/Family and Community Health

Remain Calm

We are all aware of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. This is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. First and foremost we need to remain calm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests we take the following precautions:

HOME

  • Clean hands at the door and at regular intervals
  • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, and handrails regularly
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning

Commercial Establishments

  • Practice good Hygiene
  • Keep windows open when possible
  • Use online transactions when possible

School

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Consider postponing gathering
  • Limit food sharing
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick

For more information visit cdc.gov website.