Senior man and granddaughter.

Steps To Take When Becoming A Caregiver – Part 3

by Christine Steinmetz, J.D., Hotline Attorney

This post is the third in our series on caregivers. In our previous posts, we discussed the resources that are available to help make caregiving manageable. In addition to gathering information regarding doctors, medications, and billing information, there are also legal considerations and documents that can assist the caregiver in performing his/her day to day duties.

In this post, we will discuss the specific legal documents and how they can assist the caregiver. Just by saying that someone is a caregiver may not be enough to allow the caregiver to perform his or her duties or to have access to information. Below is a list of some of the documents that can assist a caregiver in carrying out his or her day to day duties.

A) The first document is the Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. This document allows the person you appoint, called an agent, to handle your finances. This document can be made effective upon execution or upon a person’s disability. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to make decisions and designate your agent BEFORE a disability occurs. Once you are incapacitated, it is too late for you to sign a valid Durable Power of Attorney.

It is also important to note, that as the caregiver, you will not want to sign personally for debts or contracts of the person you are caring for, but as an agent under a power of attorney. Otherwise, you as the caregiver could be personally liable for the debts of the person you are caring for.

B) The next document is the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal form that allows a person to appoint an agent, called a “Patient Advocate,” to make healthcare decisions for them when they are unable to participate in medical treatment decisions. This document only becomes effective when you are incapacitated.

There are also circumstances where a patient has a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, but does not want to be kept alive through resuscitation. Michigan’s Do-Not-Resuscitate Procedure Act allows an individual who is at least 18 years of age and of sound mind to execute a document called a Do-Not-Resuscitate-Order. This document states that in the event the patient’s heart or breathing should stop, then no person shall attempt to resuscitate the patient. Under the statute, a patient advocate or a guardian may also be able to execute a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order for the patient. A patient who has a Do-Not-Resuscitate-Order can obtain a do-not resuscitate bracelet so that health care professionals are aware of his or her wishes.

If you want your caregiver to have access to your medical information, then you will want to add your caregiver’s name to your HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) form. Your doctor can provide you with a copy of the HIPAA form to complete.

C) Some clients only have Social Security as his or her source of income. A caregiver can assist the person they are caring for with his or her Social Security payment by being appointed as a Representative Payee. A Representative Payee for Social Security can be a person or organization that is appointed to receive and manage Social Security or SSI payments. This form can be obtained from the Social Security office.

The Representative Payee must keep records of expenses and will need to report an accounting of expenses to the Social Security office. There is a Representative Payee Accounting Report that can be completed online.

In our next post, we will continue our discussion regarding the legal documents that can assist a caregiver. After reading this, I hope you realize the important role a caregiver plays in the life of the person they are caring for. 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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