5 Legal Documents Every Family Caregiver Needs

5 Legal Documents Every Family Caregiver Needs

If you’re caring for an aging or disabled loved one, having these forms will help you in a crisis.

Being a caregiver requires more than just feeding and bathing. In many cases, it may also involve administrative duties. If so, having the right legal documents makes the job a lot easier.

Here are five common forms family caregivers usually need. Most don’t require you to see an attorney, but you’ll end up with a stronger document if you do.

1. Personal care agreement

This form designates you as your loved one’s official family caregiver. You should draw one up even if you aren’t being paid for your services. It usually covers such matters as:

  • When you work
  • What your exact duties are
  • Your compensation (if that applies)
  • How long the agreement is effective
  • Other relevant issues

This document need not be complicated, but it should cover the basics. If you are not sure how to write one, go online and check out examples.

2. HIPAA privacy release

The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient privacy. By law, doctors who share medical information face stiff penalties. But what if you need information as part of your caregiver duties?

The answer is to have your loved one sign a privacy release. This simple document authorizes the doctor to share necessary information with you. It’s very short and only takes a moment to complete. There should even be blank forms right there in the office. Make sure the original goes in your loved one’s medical records, but keep a copy for yourself. You may find you need it someday.

3. Advance health care directive

This is what is commonly known as a living will. It lets people make their own end-of-life care decisions before a medical crisis strikes. It can also ease family tensions in a time of crisis. With a living will, loved ones don’t have to agonize over difficult medical decisions. And any time someone’s final wishes change, he or she can update this will.

A living will is easy to create. It should spell out:

  • Whether the person wants to be resuscitated
  • Whether artificial life support should be used
  • Whether the person wants to be hospitalized or remain at home

Samples are available online, as well as do-it-yourself kits in bookstores. You don’t need to have a lawyer present, but your loved one’s signature should be witnessed and notarized. Then, make sure to add the living will to your loved one’s medical records.

4. Durable power of attorney for health care

Some people become mentally incapacitated and cannot make sound decisions anymore. In this case, the person can benefit from having a health care proxy. This is someone who can legally make health care decisions on behalf of the patient.

That is why your loved one should choose someone with good judgment to act as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Unlike a living will, this document leaves most decision-making to the person appointed. It’s a more complex form, and most states require a licensed attorney to witness your signature.

5. Financial power of attorney

If your loved one becomes incapacitated, he or she won’t be able to handle finances. Someone will have to be appointed to pay bills, file tax returns and so forth.

This is where a financial power of attorney comes in. By assigning this role to someone trustworthy, your loved one can be assured their financial concerns are tended to. The form is only a few pages long, and can be found online or as part of a software kit. Just remember to have an attorney review it before signing. You also need to have it notarized before it can go into effect.

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