Financial and Legal

4 Ethical Considerations

If you are caring for an elderly person, whether as a family member, friend, or healthcare provider, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the right approach for providing that care.

1) Understanding Your Role
Understanding your role in caring for the elderly person is essential. There should be a clear understanding between you and the elderly person (and possibly family members) as to the type of care you will be providing, including a list of your responsibilities, and any limitations. If, for example, you are assisting with cooking, bathing and/or cleaning, you may not be authorized to open the mail, pay bills or combination of both. It is always advisable to put this in writing with a caregiver agreement or some other type of contract that covers the above aforementioned information.

2) Competency
Although many elderly people are fully capable of handling their own affairs, such as making financial and medical decisions, there are many who are vulnerable and unable to handle even the most basic daily activities.

If you, as a caregiver, are noticing signs that the elderly person is having difficulty with decision-making or understanding and communicating with you or others around them, you should notify a family member; physician or attorney.

From a legal perspective, if its determined that the elderly person still has capacity to sign legal documents, such as financial power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney , then this would be a good time to have those documents prepared or reviewed if previously  prepared quite some time ago. These documents would ensure that if the elderly person’s capacity further diminishes to a point where they can go no longer handle important decisions, including banking, bill paying, communicating with healthcare providers, or you as the caregiver, assigning someone else to manager that person’s affairs would be necessary and advisable. This would also include making sure that a Power of Attorney is in place; typically (but not always) a family member would have to apply to become that person’s guardian.

As a caregiver; you should communicate your concerns regarding the elderly person’s competency, and should be aware of any power of attorney or guardian appointed for the elderly person and your responsibility to them.

3. Undue Influence
When caring for an elderly person, it would be extremely important for you, as the caregiver to be aware if another person in inappropriately  influencing their decision. Vey often, an elderly person’s child will want to speak on their parents behalf, even if they have no legal rights or other authority to do so. Making decisions for their parent, including those decisions that are not necessarily in the elderly parent’s best interest, are most often financially related, but motives can be numerous.

4. Be Aware
If you are caring for an elderly person, BE AWARE!
Be aware of your role in providing care, be aware of the person’s ability or inability to make and understand important decisions, and be aware of threats to the person’s health and financial well-being. If you have concerns, be sure to speak up to the right person!

Contributed By: Robert J. Keltos, Esquire

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