How to Manage Your Caregiving Responsibilities

Elinor Ginzler answers caregivers' questions

Comment From Maryanna Olds: What is the best way to help my 81-year-old mother, who is caring for my dad, who is in a rehab facility and is dying of lung cancer? They live two hours away and I work a full-time job.

Elinor Ginzler: First, my heart goes out to you and your family. You sure have your hands full. Here are several ideas.

First, make sure your employer knows about your situation and that you know about any benefits and policies that might help you. Check out our article on "Balancing Work and Caregiving."

And one more idea — while you can't be there every day, you can still help. Tell your mom that you can make all the phone calls and handle lots of the paperwork. Those are things that don't need you there in person. And when you do go to visit, ask your mom what she'd like you to do. It could be take care of your dad or it could be take her to lunch.

Comment From Barbara: Is there a website where I can print out a medical power of attorney for California?

Elinor Ginzler: Thanks for asking, Barbara. Here's a link for a set of state-by-state forms. It's a great idea for all of us — no matter what our age — to complete a medical power of attorney and to have it just in case.

Comment From John Quinn: My mother was an army nurse in the '50s. Does the VA take care of dementia vets?

Elinor Ginzler: VA offers some really good benefits. For example, at Jewish Council for the Aging's day center, we have several veterans who attend our center for stimulation and support while they deal with their dementia, and VA pays. Check with your local VA to find out what's available in your community.

Comment From Rosemary: I have been advised by a social worker to get a power of attorney for my parents. Are the forms on line reputable or is it better to see a lawyer? I have read that hospitals also have these forms.

Elinor Ginzler: It sounds like your social worker is asking you to plan ahead. What a great idea. Please know there are two kinds of powers of attorney. One related to medical decision-making and one for financial issues. Both have your family member identifying an agent (you) to act on their behalf.

Go here for the health care power of attorney.

For other information on legal and financial matters, check out our resources.

Comment From Margaret: How do I get a durable power of attorney. My husband is no longer able to sign his name.

Elinor Ginzler: Margaret, I'm sorry to say, it's probably too late. Powers of attorney can only be created if the person is still capable of making decisions. In the worst case scenario you might have to pursue guardianship. If so, you'll need a lawyer. Best of luck.

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