No matter how long you have been a caregiver, having a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) from your loved one is one of the most powerful instruments in your bag of caregiving tools. This little piece of paper can mean the difference between getting needed care for the person you care for or (seemingly) endless hours arguing with healthcare providers, insurance companies, or any number of other vendors. Think of a DPOA as the skeleton key for any number of sensitive business situations.
The way the business world is set up these days, every individual has the right to privacy and responsibility for their own matters. When an individual becomes incapacitated or otherwise no longer able to handle their affairs, it is up to that person to designate a representative. If they don’t, no one can take over, so their needs may not be met.
Having the Talk
For an individual to designate a representative, it is best to have a very honest conversation with family and caregivers as early as possible. Laying out the realities of the situation is tough but so very important to do.
As I have written about before, family will fall into one of two categories. The ones who deny the realities and are sure everything is just being blown out of proportion, are the first one out of the door. This leaves the rest of us who eventually become the mainstay caregivers.
There is no middle group. Family either stays or goes.
With all of the known elements of the situation, the person receiving care (the principal) should designate an individual, or individuals, to handle their affairs should they become unable to do so themselves.
Remember, one person can handle business affairs while another can be designated to handle healthcare matters, or one person can be designated to handle all aspects. It is up to the principal to make these determinations and the individuals need to agree to the task.
Things to Keep in Mind
Since this is a sensitive emotional, as well as legal situation, it is important to proceed with caution and plenty of honest thought. A DPOA is a powerful instrument that has the capability to be abused, so the person(s) selected should be carefully considered. We unfortunately see occasional newspaper accounts of caregivers cleaning out bank accounts and other abuses, so be thoughtful and careful.
When the Durable Power of Attorney is created, it is advisable to have it notarized. Some situations require a notarized version and some don’t, so it’s probably best to do it right the first time around. When in doubt, consult a local legal representative.
Once you have a DPOA, make plenty of copies and share them with all important institutions that handle your loved one’s business. Banks, doctors and hospitals especially. This will help immensely whenever the time comes that you need to stand in for the principal. You probably don’t know when but it is one less worry at the time.
A Durable Power of Attorney will not solve a lot of problems for you in the course of your providing care but it will allow you function much more effectively. Especially when your caregiving life becomes more complicated, as it tends to become.
Best of luck and know you are not alone.
Stay true to yourself, yet always be open to learn. Work hard, and never give up on your dreams, even when nobody else believes they can come true but you. These are not cliches but real tools you need no matter what you do in life to stay focused on your path.
– Phillip Sweet