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Steps To Take When Becoming A Caregiver

by Christine Steinmetz, J.D., Hotline Attorney

This post is the second in our series on caregivers. In our previous post, we provided questions to help you determine whether you are a caregiver. In this post, we will discuss the steps to take when becoming a caregiver and the resources that are available to help make caregiving manageable.

Three women, three generations. Happy and smiling.The Legal Hotline receives several calls each week from caregivers who are trying to help a loved one. Sometimes a parent or loved one will approach you and ask for assistance with her/his finances or medical treatments. Other times, there can be a sudden change in health or mental capacity that requires the caregiver to suddenly take on this new role. As we discussed in our previous post, many caregivers are family members who also have their own jobs, families, and responsibilities. Caregivers may find themselves juggling their life along with the life of their loved one. Some caregivers are not prepared for their new duties and obligations. The purpose of this post is to give you a starting point on what information to gather and to explain your legal responsibilities.

AARP’s website has an excellent checklist to assist family caregivers. The American Bar Association along with AARP also has a book with a checklist for family caregivers. Below are the some of the steps you can take when becoming a caregiver:

  1. Obtain a list of all medications for the person you are caring for, including generic names.
    • Contact information for healthcare providers with addresses. Keep track of mileage from your house to your loved ones and then to the doctor’s office and back. This may be a deductible health care expense.
    • Have phone numbers of all contacts that you may need in an emergency. Besides the obvious of 911 and her/his doctors, you will also want the names and numbers of neighbors or meal on wheels and other services s/he receive.
  2. Gather financial information.
    • Keep a folder of all their important information, such as Social Security numbers, health insurance, and Medicare.
    • Find out about their sources of income and know how much is coming in and when the money arrives.
    • Gather financial information such as bank accounts, credit cards, accountant, and start a system to gather the paperwork. You will need to know passcodes and PINs.
  3. Keep track of routine bills and medical bills.
    • Track medical bills and what is paid for by Medicare. If you are unable to figure out the “Summary Notice,” AARP has resources to help.
  4. Be alert to fraud and scams against your loved one.

You may be surprised to learn that there are scam lists that are sold. So once a loved one is a victim of a scam, they’re name is added to a list that is sold to other scammers. If you find out a loved one is a victim of a scam, you will want to report it to the police, the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General’s office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In our next post, we will continue discussing the steps to take when becoming a caregiver. After reading this, I hope you realize the important role a caregiver plays in the life of the person s/he is caring for. Most people do not anticipate a disability and do not realize the need to make arrangements to have another person to act as their caregiver.

If you are a caregiver or have questions regarding caregivers, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800.347.5297 and our hotline attorneys will be happy to answer your questions.

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