An aging parent’s health can fail suddenly, or they can have a fall that will unexpectedly put them into a precarious state. Therefore, it is vitally important that legal and medical arrangements be made, while they are still well enough to be an active participant in decisions, advises TAP into Roxbury in the article “Putting Together a Plan of Care.” Here are the steps to get you started:

Advance Directive: (Also called Directive to Physicians & Living Will) This document spells out their wishes regarding future medical care and treatment, if they are no longer able to speak or make decisions on their own behalf. It is used to state in advance whether or not they want to have advanced medical treatment, like a feeding tube, ventilator, or heart machine to prolong life, when death is inevitable. The person decides while they are well, what will happen when they are not well. It tells the family and the medical professionals if they want the doctors to continue life support efforts or not.

A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney appoints another person to make medical and treatment decisions, if the person becomes incapacitated.

A Power of Attorney names someone who will be able to make decisions about their finances, pay bills, and manage real estate and other assets.

A Last Will and Testament provides information about what they would like to happen to their assets upon their demise and names an executor who will be in charge of carrying out their wishes.

Copies of medical insurance cards and any other insurance information, if emergency treatment is needed.

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), if they do not wish to be brought back to life during a medical emergency. This document is different than an Advance Directive, and knowing the difference is very important. The DNR is typically used when someone does not want anything done to save or prolong life.

A list of medications they are currently taking, as well as doctor’s names and contact information.

A list of professionals, including their estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor, and all contact information.

Having all these documents prepared in advance of any emergency will be helpful, if they are ever needed. Keeping them in a safe and accessible location where they can be obtained quickly in an emergency is also important. It is not advised to put them in a safe deposit box, which may be sealed upon their death.

Some seniors are reluctant to have these discussions, although they may be more comfortable having them with a person outside the family, like an estate planning attorney.

Reference: TAP Into Roxbury (October 7, 2019) “Putting Together a Plan of Care”