Critical Step for Caregivers: Make Sure You Do Some Estate Planning, Too

Estate planning, including the creation of Wills, powers of attorney and trusts, is standard and needed advice for someone who’s elderly or disabled. If a family member is caring for this loved one, they, too, should be prepared for the unexpected. Caregivers play critical roles in families. If they’re no longer able to do the job, what happens next?

Almost half of adult caregivers say it’s moderately or very difficult to balance work and care-giving according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. More than three quarters of those responding state care-giving was “stressful” and more than half describe it as “overwhelming.”

Donna Raziano, chief medical officer of Mercy LIFE, which works with seniors and their caregivers through Mercy LIFE’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, was interviewed by the Inquirer. She states that when the process starts most caregivers can cope but as the health of the family member declines they find themselves unable to keep up.  Because of increasing caregiver obligations, they might take less care of themselves, take less time off which leads to both people developing medical problems.

An estimated 20% to 40% of caregivers suffer depression, which can worsen as the health of the family member deteriorates. If the depression isn’t addressed, the quality of care declines and the caregiver might reach a breaking point. Raziano warns that early signs of caregiver burnout are feeling under strain and angry. It can be triggered by uncertainty due to financial problems or the fact both people are suffering health problems.

Caregivers suffering burnout should talk to others who can help, especially other family members. Extreme burnout can result in physical and financial abuse of the family member.  “People snap. You can be so frustrated at a loved one who is repeating themselves, who is falling,” Raziano is quoted as saying. “One thing that often causes burnout is fecal incontinence.  That is an extreme trigger where people just lose it.”

Those suffering from burnout may have another family member take over for a time or respite care may be available through a nursing home. If these measures aren’t an option, the county aging office may be able to provide some part-time care to lessen the load.

Raziano states people are living longer and we all need to make plans for ourselves and work with family members to help plan for when an elderly parent can no longer care for him or herself.

Part of that planning should be estate planning for family members who may pre-decease an elderly parent. If someone’s not there to help care for a parent, proceeds from an estate or life insurance policy could help pay for professional services to ease the load on surviving family members caring for a parent.

If you or members of your family are caregivers, contact one of our seasoned attorneys to discuss the situation and your estate planning needs.