This is a guest blog written by the CEO of AffirmiCare, Paula Enrietto. AffirmiCare is one of our partners who provides home care services in the Boulder County area. You can find more information on AffirmiCare’s website about their personalized care options. The information and opinions shared here are Paula’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Cultivate.

Paula Enrietto
Paula Enrietto, of AffirmiCare

In the first blog post in this series, we talked about knowing when to seek medical attention in the face of your loved one’s changing health. As we mentioned, change of any sort is frightening but there are tools to help make your way through. First and foremost, gain the knowledge you need to become a proactive problem solver. The more you know the more control you will feel. And you will be a wonderful advocate for your family on the caregiving journey.

What is a proactive problem solver? Proactive problem solving is all about identifying problems and taking charge before they become bigger problems. We’ve talked about keeping a lookout for changes in your loved one’s medical condition. With your medical team, this helps ensure that all possible treatments are in place. It is better to be proactive than reactive!

Today we will look at another part of being a proactive problem solver. Let’s take a look at the legal and financial safeguards to put in place. What do you need to do to plan for an uncertain future where change in the only constant?

Advanced directives: Do you know what your loved one’s wishes are with respect to their medical treatment and final days? Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later. You may have heard many terms around advanced directives. These may include a living will, the Five Wishes, a Do Not Resuscitate order, durable medical power of attorney or the MOST form.

A Living Will is a formal legal document that is written and signed by your loved one. It spells out what type of medical treatment a person would or would not want in these situations. Most of the time this document must be witnessed and notarized. It’s important to note that this document is not transferable from state to state.

The Five Wishes form was developed by Five Wishes. It is legally valid in most states and allows your family or caregiver to know exactly what you want, relieving them from the difficult position of guessing your wishes.

A Do Not Resuscitate document tells medical professionals regarding your wishes if your heart and breathing stop. It is important to note that Emergency Medical Service teams who respond to 911 calls are required to revive and prolong life unless there is a readily available copy of the Do Not Resuscitate order. This order must be signed by both the doctor and your loved one.

A Durable Medical Power of Attorney is a legal document that names someone to be your proxy (agent) to make your health care decisions if you can’t do so. This person can speak with doctors and caregivers on your behalf and ensure that your wishes are honored.

The MOST (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) form is a doctor’s order that helps you keep control of your end of life care. It covers many of the aspects of the other forms and is created in collaboration with your doctor. It must be signed by a healthcare professional and you or your designated health care representative. To learn more about this form please visit the Center for Improving Value in Health Care.

All of these tools facilitate the planning discussion you and your family should have while not under stress. Waiting too long to have these discussions leaves you in a situation where you are reacting, which is even more stressful. Work with your doctor and lawyer to learn which documents are best for your situation.

The other area that requires significant planning when health matters arise is around finances. Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes! Here are some steps to consider when planning:

Speak with a financial advisor. Your situation is unique and seeking out someone who can advise you about financial matters is as important as your loved one’s medical team and lawyer. In collaboration with your team, they can advise the best way to protect your financial well-being. Whether spending down for Medicaid, avoiding probate or planning for long term care, they can provide invaluable advice to secure your financial future as you focus on caregiving.

Speak with your family. Make sure they know the plan and your wishes for your financial state. This will help reduce family strife and allow you to focus on caregiving for your loved one.

Be a proactive problem solver by controlling what you can!

Come back next week for the third post in Paula’s How to Survive and Thrive While Caring for Others series, which will tackle how to thrive as a caregiver.