Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I just agreed to be primary power of attorney for medical directives for
my brother and sister-in- law, both frail and aging with various
ailments. Their only child moved abroad and we all agreed it made
sense to have it be someone in the States. While 1500 miles away
isn’t optimal, it beats nine time zones and three languages away. How
can I prepare to cope in case of emergencies?
Scared of What I Said Yes To
Your fear is reasonable. There are also reasonable precautions you can
take. Here’s some solid steps you can start with, adapting as
necessary for personal circumstances:
Get a list of all their doctors (including address/phone/fax) plus a list
of all medications and a list of times hospitalized, date, reason, name
of hospital. Send copies of your power of attorney/medical authority to
each of the docs and ask that it be placed in the file. Ask your brother
and sister-in- law to sign a privacy release at each office so the docs
can speak directly to you. Get copies/numbers of all medical insurance
plans (including Medicare, supplemental, etc and the name/number of
their agent), plus life, long-term care, etc. Ask about end-of- life
instructions, and medical directives: where are they kept? Who has
copies? Get those to their attorney and doctors as well. Have the same
papers on file with your attorney. Ask they keep the medical info in a
labeled envelope posted on the fridge, though not where they’ll it see
every time they reach for some milk.
Then to operations. Know the basics about how their household work.
How are bills received (mail, online) and paid (mail, online, auto)?
What are their driver’s license numbers? Model/color/year/license of
car. Who has keys to house/car? Are you prepared to lay out your own
money In an emergency? Perhaps some document that says you will
be reimbursed for reasonable expenses. The money issues are
something you should discuss with your attorney to be clear about
what responsibilities, and rights, you are taking on.
Get the name of a trusted family friend who’s willing to pitch in if
there’s an emergency. Someone more mobile and healthier than they
are. Make sure s/he has all your access info and will check in on them
from time to time. In a crunch, you may have to pay her to help or
have her find care, Finally, everyone’s favorite: Ask if they’ve
considered issues related to long-term care outside their home. If they
haven’t encourage them to take some field trips, perhaps with the
friend, encourage them to do so.
This is a big responsibility. The biggest thing to be afraid of is the
unpredictability. Make sure you have all the daughter’s contact info
and warn her that she’s still 24/7 too.