Caring for an elderly parent can be emotionally and physically draining, particularly when the parent is disabled. As the parent become less independent and unable to handle his affairs, you will have to take the necessary steps to ensure that his legal, personal, medical and financial interests are protected. One way is to get a power of attorney drawn up, so that you or someone you trust can act on your elderly parent's behalf to make important decisions that he can no longer make for himself.
Hire a lawyer who specialises in elder law, estate planning, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and guardianship matters. Ask the lawyer to meet with you and your elderly parent to explain the purpose of a power of attorney and to let you know what other options need to be considered. Encourage your elderly parent to participate in the discussion, if she is willing and able to do so, since this concerns her.
Gather all your elderly parent's important paperwork, namely: property records, bank/investment statements, medical records, tax records, marriage and divorce records, birth certificate, Social Security card, driver's license, insurance policies and any legal paperwork that is still in force. Thoroughly review these documents with your attorney.
Decide exactly what must be prepared, in addition to the power of attorney. If your elderly parent does not have a will, one should be executed while he is still able to understand and exercise good judgment.
Have your attorney prepare a durable power of attorney, which consists of a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney, for your elderly parent's signature. She must sign the form in the presence of two or more witnesses (depending on her state of residence) and a notary public. You, as the designated representative, will not have to sign the form.
File the executed power of attorney and all accompanying paperwork, with the county clerk's office, if required. Be aware that some states make it mandatory to do so. Keep a copy of the fully executed, notarised power of attorney for your records. You will need to present the form whenever you conduct business on behalf of your disabled elderly parent.
Try to include your disabled elderly parent as much as possible in the decision-making process so he does not feel helpless and left out. Honour his wishes when you can, but realise that you are entrusted to act in his best interest, even if he disagrees with your decisions.
--Do not rely on generic, self-help legal software programs to prepare paperwork in complex matters such as this. Get an experienced attorney to help decide what needs to be done. Guardianship and power of attorney issues are highly specialised and are contingent upon factors including the elderly parent's present and long-term medical condition, as well as her own personal wishes for how she wants her affairs handled. --Don't pressure your elderly, disabled parent to make life-changing decisions, especially when he is tired, hungry, restless or upset. Choose a time to talk to him and introduce information gradually instead of all at once. Keep him relaxed and don't force the issue.