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Long-distance caregivers can tap tons of help -- Page 2

The Locator quickly connects you to the Aging Network, which consists of 56 State Units on Aging, 655 Area Agencies on Aging, 236 tribal and native organizations representing 300 Native American and Alaskan native tribal organizations, and two organizations serving native Hawaiians.

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Even if you don't know where to begin, the knowledgeable people at the Locator, jointly administered by N4A and the National Association of State Units on Aging, can help you identify what the needs are on the other end.

"When people call the call center, we try to prepare them to make that next call to the Area Agency on Aging, to prompt them to ask about things like eligibility, and to ask questions if they don't understand," says Eltzeroth.

Once you've determined your needs and identified local contacts, organize your long-distance care network. If more help is necessary, consider the services of a geriatric care manager (referrals through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at or a daily money manager (referrals through the American Association of Daily Money Managers at

Legal empowerment
To effectively care long distance for a parent or loved one, you'll likely need these three legal documents signed in person by the care receiver:

  • Durable power of attorney. This gives you the right to act on the person's behalf in legal, financial and insurance matters.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care. This form gives you the same representational rights regarding the person's medical care.
  • The advanced health-care directive (also called a Living Will) gives you the authority to decide end-of-life issues if the person is incapable of doing so.

The care receiver must sign these documents while they still have legal capacity. Two persons not associated by blood or marriage and without financial interest in the signer must serve as witnesses, and a notary must record the signing. Cost to have an attorney draw up the package may run about $250.

Kansas City, Kan., attorney and financial planner Kyle Krull recommends using an estate or elder law specialist near where your parent or loved one lives. If durable powers of attorney were previously signed in another state, make sure your documents are compliant with the new state of residence and that they are still valid under current state statutes.

To find a good attorney, Krull suggests you log on to the Martindale-Hubble site and search their Lawyer Locator for elder care or estate planning lawyers in the area where the care receiver lives. Next, narrow the results to attorneys that show a BV or AV (very high to pre-eminent) peer rating. Then cross-check your short list against listings on the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

You'll want to file your durable power of attorney with your loved one's financial institutions so you'll be able to assist with paying bills, tending to investments, etc. As for the medical durable power of attorney, don't hesitate to spread the word.

"You need to paper the walls with that. You need to make sure that each agent has a copy and that the primary care physician has a copy, as well as all their specialists, even their pharmacist," Krull says.

It may also prove to be helpful to have handy the following information about your parent or loved one: date of birth; Social Security number; Medicare and Medicaid number; names and dosage of medications; and contact information for their health insurer, primary and secondary physicians, hospitals, clinics and pharmacist.

Caught unprepared for care giving? In addition to the organizations mentioned, there are numerous online sources for valuable information, including the National Family Caregivers Association, AARP's care-giving site, Children of Aging Parents, the Alzheimer's Association and Generations United, a national intergenerational advocacy organization.

Bottom line: Assess the needs, assemble your care-giving network, obtain legal empowerment, keep notes -- and take care of yourself. It could be a long haul.

For more specific help, see the article "10 strategies for long-distance care giving."

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Mississippi.

-- Posted: June 22, 2005




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