Caring for an ill or disabled loved one is an opportunity to give and be of service to someone who truly needs you. It’s also a difficult task. An esteemed responsibility. An honor.
And as much as being a caregiver can give you (things like love and a sense of purpose) and take from you (such as your time and energy), with caregiving comes a complex and delicate set of legal questions. Do I have authorization to act on my loved one’s behalf? What are my loved one’s end-of-life wishes? What about managing money?
To help you find answers to these and other questions, the Kelsey-Seybold Supportive Medicine program can start by talking with a patient’s entire family or group of caregivers. Providing an added layer of support, Supportive Medicine focuses on improving quality of life for those suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses – and their families. Together, we can explore the patient’s wishes and preferences covering a variety of topics.
From there, we also recommend speaking with an attorney specializing in family or elder law to develop these critical documents:
- Power of Attorney – This document gives a designated caregiver legal authority to make health decisions on behalf of the patient. Similarly, a power of attorney can and should be developed for financial aspects, as well, so that a caregiver can make financial decisions for the patient in case of incapacitation. There is also something called a “digital” power of attorney that designates an agent to manage things like email accounts, digital photos, social media accounts, online accounts, and more.
- Living Will – This informs the medical team and family members of how the patient wishes to receive care in the instance he or she is incapacitated.
- DNR (Do Not Resuscitate Orders) – A doctor creates this order in partnership with a patient or the patient’s designated power of attorney.
- Will and Estate Plan – The patient names an executor to manage his or her estate and designate assets to go to chosen beneficiaries in the event of the patient’s death. Knowing the patient has a will frees the caregiver from having to take on this responsibility at the end of the patient’s life.
With these legal documents in place, caregivers are freed of the additional worry and restraints that come from lack of legal authority or lingering questions. They allow the caregiver – and the patient – to focus on more on quality of life and less on managing its complexities.
If you or a loved one are being treated for a chronic condition, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with a Supportive Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold. We work with you and your entire family or support network to provide guidance and assistance designed to help you live your best life possible – together.
Dr. Pang is board-certified by the American Board of Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, and Hospice & Palliative Medicine. She specializes in Supportive Medicine and cares for patients at the Berthelsen Main Campus in Houston, Texas. Her clinical interests include Palliative Care and Internal Medicine.