Helping Families Navigate the Financial Challenges of Age Transitions

Tag: caregiving

Broaching Financial Power of Attorney: A Sensitive Conversation

My elderly father is resistant to the idea of relinquishing control over his finances, but he's starting to show signs of cognitive decline. How can I delicately broach the subject of financial power of attorney without causing conflict?

First and foremost, know that you’re not alone in facing this challenge. Many families encounter similar hurdles as their loved ones age, and it’s perfectly natural to feel apprehensive about initiating such conversations. It can feel like tip-toeing through a minefield of emotions, especially when broaching the subject of financial power of attorney. 

Approaching the topic with sensitivity and empathy is key. Start by creating a safe space for open dialogue, perhaps over a cup of coffee, during a walk, or other quiet moment together. Express your concerns from a place of love and genuine care for your father’s well-being without sounding patronizing.  I would also avoid using any of the phrases below as they can sound manipulative, demeaning, or patronizing.

How NOT to start the conversation
  • “Dad,  now that you have dementia, don’t you think you need help managing your affairs…”
  • “You know, it’s only a matter of time when you’re going to slip up and make a big mistake…”
  • “I’m only doing this for you…”
  • “You know, Mom would want you to do this…”
Good conversation starters

In my Financial Caregiver Academy Course, I dedicate two lessons to Working as a Family. In Part One, I outline Seven Conversation Starters that may help begin the conversation. However, it may not always be you or a sibling that is best for broaching the topic. Sometimes a trusted friend, spouse, or outside advisor can open the door to the conversation easier than the adult child. 

When discussing the idea of financial power of attorney, emphasize the importance of  maintaining his autonomy.  Assure him that this step is not about taking away his independence but rather about ensuring his wishes are honored and his best interests are protected.

One thing you could mention is the use of a Springing Power of Attorney – that is only upon the occurrence of a predefined event will the power “spring” into being.  Usually the event is when two physicians known to the individual attest that he is no longer capable of managing his affairs. Until then, your dad would retain full control over his affairs.   

It’s crucial to listen attentively to your father’s concerns and reservations without dismissing them. Acknowledge his fears and uncertainties, and validate his emotions. Reassure him that you’re there to support him every step of the way and that decisions will be made collaboratively, with his input and wishes guiding the process.

Depending on your father’s level of understanding and engagement, you may find it helpful to provide educational resources or involve a trusted third party, such as a financial planner or elder law attorney, in the discussion. These professionals can offer expert guidance tailored to your family’s unique circumstances and help navigate the legal and logistical aspects of establishing a financial power of attorney.

Remember, these conversations may not always unfold smoothly, and it’s okay to take things one step at a time. Be patient with yourself and your father as you navigate this journey together. By approaching the topic with empathy, respect, and a commitment to collaborative decision-making, you can help ensure that your father’s financial affairs are managed responsibly while preserving his dignity and autonomy.

How a lawyer can respond to diminished capacity.

Confidentiality is one of the hallmarks of the attorney-client relationship. Clients expect their attorney to uphold the confidential nature of their discussions, and attorneys must adhere to a strict code of conduct to protect the public they represent. But what happens if the attorney questions the capacity of their client?

Capacity can be a complex legal doctrine, but legal capacity is required by parties of a valid contract.  Moreover, standards of capacity can also vary by they type of contract entered into as well as by different states in which the contract is governed. For example, capacity to create a valid Last Will and Testament requires the one creating the will to know the general nature of their possessions and who their legal heirs are. Another standard may be applied to a more complex legal transaction.

Attorney Mark C. Palmer, Chief Counsel at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, addresses how attorneys can work with clients that are demonstrating cognitive decline. In his article,
Diminished Capacity of a Client: How Should a Lawyer Respond? | Q&A, Palmer discusses three questions an attorney needs to consider:

  1. How does a lawyer know if the client has diminished capacity?
  2. How might this change how a lawyer represents a client?
  3. What protective measures can the lawyer take while meeting ethical obligations?

If you have concerns about the capacity of your aging loved one to execute a valid legal contract, consult with a qualified legal professional, preferably a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) as well as your loved one’s medical provider. It is these professionals’ responsibility to independently determine whether your loved ones have the required capacity to act in their best interests.

MARK C. PALMER

Mark C. Palmer is Chief Counsel at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on ProfessionalismMark writes on civility, professionalism and future law for the Commission’s 2Civility blog and delivers statewide professionalism programming, including a lawyer mentoring program, to attorneys and law students across Illinois. Follow him @palmerlaw.

Source: Diminished Capacity of a Client: How Should a Lawyer Respond? | Q&A

Balancing Work and Elder Care Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Liz O’Donnell, founder of Working Daughter, a community for people balancing eldercare and career, and the author of Working Daughter: A Guide To Caring For your Aging Parents While Making A Living (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.) penned an article for the Harvard Business Review providing tips for those already in the sandwich generation, but now with the added challenge of working from home.

She offers four tips to help those working from home AND who now share space with spouses, children, and perhaps an aging parent.

  1. Set your parents up for success by establishing routines and clear communication where possible.
  2. Set boundaries both for them and yourself so that you can minimize or control the interruptions that shared work and home life will bring.
  3. Overcommunicate your situation with co-workers and managers. Chances are, they are in similar positions or there will be other co-workers who are as eldercare comes out of hiding and into the mainstream.
  4. Do not neglect your own self-care. Caregiver burnout was already a big deal even before COVID. For the working adult children of dependent parents, at least the office provided the odd respite from the chaos of home. Now that is gone for many, so self-care needs to be a priority.

For the full text of the article, see the link below.

 

Source: Balancing Work and Elder Care Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Caregiver Burnout

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.  It may be accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able, physically or financially. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.  Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression.

What causes caregiver burnout?

Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver’s body, mind and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue, hopelessness and ultimately burnout. Other factors that can lead to caregiver burnout include:

  • Role confusion: Many people are confused when thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be difficult for a person to separate her role as caregiver from her role as spouse, lover, child, friend or another close relationship.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. This may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a progressive disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
  • Lack of control: Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources and skills to effectively plan, manage and organize their loved one’s care.
  • Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves, in part because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility. Some family members such as siblings, adult children or the patient himself/herself may place unreasonable demands on the caregiver. They also may disregard their own responsibilities and place burdens on the person identified as primary caregiver.
  • Other factors: Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. They may even become sick themselves.

What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?

The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. They include:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Irritability

Source: Caregiver Burnout | Cleveland Clinic

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