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6 Essential Legal and 11 Non-Legal Documents for Your Caregiving Toolbox.

And How to Complete them with Care and Empathy.

Over the course of your caregiving journey, you will need to assist your loved one in several ways. To be an effective advocate and operate without challenges, it's best to possess pertinent legal documentation that grants you the power of attorney to act as a health care and financial agent for your loved one. It's necessary to have when partnering with health care providers and financial institutions in the event that your parents are not able to communicate and act for themselves. The best time to initiate the process of getting legal authority in health care and financial decision making is when you know you will need to advocate on your parent's behalf.

In my personal situation, I hesitated to ask my mother to get the paperwork drafted and completed for fear of making my mother feel as if I were attempting to take away her independence and take over her assets. I feared she might wonder if I had an ulterior motive for my request to get the legal paperwork in order.

I was unaware that reluctance on a care recipient's behalf was normal. Feeling guarded when it comes to touchy subjects like this is human nature, as it is their desire to hold on to their own perceived independence for as long as humanly possible. So, while it's normal to feel reluctant and hesitant to initiate this type of conversation with your loved one, it's truly in their best interest to have it. It's what's necessary to provide the help they will need to get the care and assistance they're require in the future.

If you're feeling nervous about pursuing the conversation of acquiring legal documentation for your care recipient, my advice would be to have an open and empathetic dialogue acknowledging their need for independence. Be sure to also explain the necessity of having the proper authority to be of assistance when they can't make proper decisions for themselves or for the simple transactions with banking.

You might also consider that sometimes these conversations are best held while in the presence of professionals such as social workers, attorneys, and other medical professionals. Feel free to schedule a consultation with them in order to address any initial questions or concerns your loved one may have.

Because my mother had difficulty walking and preferred to stay at home, I found an elder care attorney who was willing to do home visits. My mother was more open to having the conversation with the attorney and agreed to the draft and execution of all of the necessary paperwork.

My fear of having the paperwork executed caused unnecessary inconveniences for us both, later down the road. What I've learned is to trust that communicating my authentic interest in what's best for my mother will enable me to have difficult conversations with her. Communication may be complicated in the beginning, while you're still navigating the journey and defining the roles in each other's lives. But in time, you will eventually learn to trust your ability to communicate your intent in a way that is well received by your loved one.

Here's a list of required documents for operating as an advocate on your loved one's behalf.

1). Living Will - This is not to be confused with a will. A Living Will is a legal document stating the type of medical care

your parents prefer to receive in the event that they are no longer able to communicate or make decisions for themselves. When this occurs, they must name someone as a decision maker on their behalf. In addition, a health care power of attorney will be drawn up to give the assigned "agent" to act

on their behalf.

Living Will forms are generally provided by medical professionals, hospitals, nursing facilities, and attorneys. Your loved one must indicate their preference and have a witness as well as the document signed and notarized. Copies should be provided to all members of your loved one's medical care team.