Distance separates many of us from those we care about. And care for.
You may wish you were closer, but there is still much you can do to help from
If you would like to help by taking over the bill paying and other matters
which may have become a burden, your loved one could execute a durable
comprehensive power of attorney, giving you authority to handle financial
matters. These might include banking, investing, social security matters,
tax matters, etc. It is best to be named on individual accounts as "POA."
Social Security and the IRS will request that you complete their specific
paperwork before you will be authorized to act on another's behalf. Many
insurance companies and other institutions will also have their own forms.
Utilities and vendors will gladly change the mailing address for bills so that
you will receive them directly. If there is a home or other real
estate, ensure that the power of attorney specifically gives authority to buy
and sell real estate and to execute all relevant documents. If you are
involved in the sale of real estate, be sure the real estate agent has a copy of
the power of attorney document. If you will be signing the deed on
another's behalf, the original power of attorney document must be filed at the
Registry of Deeds. It will be returned to you - but if your loved one has
lost the mental capacity to legally execute documents - understand how important
it is for you to get the original document back. The attorney or closing
agent should be made aware of this as well.
If you are named as agent under a health care power of attorney, be sure that all relevant
telephone numbers are on file with the physician and local hospital. Your
loved one should carry a card at all times that states that a health care power
of attorney (and/or living will) has been executed, and includes all relevant
contact information. You should make a point of visiting with the
physician together, to discuss any issues which might arise while acting as
agent. This dialogue is critical and should be ongoing. The New
Hampshire Bar Association has published a helpful guide for agents under the
health care power of attorney: Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else.
The financial power of attorney should include language similar to the
following which authorizes you to have access to health records.
In accordance with the Health Care Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-191), 45 CFR Sections 160 and 164 ("HIPAA"), I authorize my
agent to act as my Personal Representative solely for the purpose of obtaining,
receiving and signing any authorization for the release of any and all Protected
Health Information related to my health care and related to payments in regard
to such health care.
If desired, a release may be executed and placed in the physicians file,
indicating that he or she may speak with you about your loved one's personal
medical issues. Most physicians will arrange for conference calls during
office visits so that you can participate in the discussion. An extra set
of ears is usually comforting. For those suffering from the early signs of
dementia, it is even more important that someone else understands the
physician's concerns or directives.
Take the time to go over medical insurance coverage together. Choosing
Medigap policies can be overwhelming. Prescription plans are mind
boggling. Ensure that the coverage is a good fit. Contact Medicare
and the Medigap providers and file the necessary paperwork which will allow you
to handle these matters if necessary. For a good discussion of Medicare
and Medigap visit
If your loved one resides in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or
similar residential community, speak with the administration to ensure that they
have all necessary documentation which will allow them to discuss his or her
personal matters, medical care, or financial matters.