Home for the Holiday, An Unexpected Surprise: Part I
It’s not what you expected to find when you traveled home to visit your elderly parents or grandparents for the holidays: the pawpaw who cared for you throughout childhood doesn’t seem to be taking care of himself. The mom who kept you safe and taught you to become a responsible adult now shows no regard for her own safety, personal affairs, or finances. If you notice these behaviors, you may be shocked, confused or sad. It is time to take over the care for your elderly relatives?
You may also notice other signs that your loved one is not able to take care of themselves like they once did:
- appliances being left on when not in use (ex. stove, oven)
- stacks of unpaid bills
- utilities disconnected for non-payment
- neighbors or friends report that he or she has engaged in potentially dangerous behavior (ex. erratic driving, wandering off, going out not properly dressed)
- confusion about time or place
- misplacing items
- difficulty completing familiar tasks
It can be overwhelming when you realize that they are no longer capable of properly caring for themselves or others. Fortunately, there are resources and professionals to point you in the right direction. In this month’s article, we are going to take a look at solutions you can start now, before you hit crisis mode. Planning ahead can help you eliminate some of the stress brought on when you find yourself in this situation unexpectedly.
If you are a senior, you should seek an attorney’s advice about advanced care directives. You can sign a power of attorney and clearly state your wishes about who you want caring for you and your affairs, when this is to take place (ex. when one or more doctors determine you are unable to reasonably care for your person or property), and the scope of powers of the person to whom you are giving this control. You can also create trusts, wills, and living wills that give you more say in what happens to you and your property should you become incapacitated.
In Louisiana, if a person becomes unable consistently to make reasoned decisions regarding the care of his person and property a court may order an Interdiction. During this process, a loved one or caregiver hires an attorney to file a petition with the court. The person to be interdicted is notified and the court appoints an attorney to represent them. The court may also appoint a doctor to examine the person to determine the existence and extent of their incapacity. If the court finds that the interdict cannot properly care for themselves or their affairs, it will appoint a curator to take over the care of the interdict and their and property. The curator is usually the loved one who filed the petition.
Sometimes the condition of the elderly person and their affairs is so bad that an urgent change is necessary to protect their interests. In cases that have potential for immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage, the court can grant a temporary interdiction without notice or a hearing. This gives the curator power to immediately begin handling the affairs of the interdict. It is only temporary, and will be followed up by a full hearing to prove whether the interdict is, in fact, incapable.
It is always a good idea to contact an attorney in advance to plan for your own long term care. If you are caring for an elderly loved one who is showing signs of incapacity, an attorney can help you take the best steps necessary to protect that loved one before they can substantially harm themselves or their property. Next month we will talk about steps you can take in situations when your loved one presents an immediate danger to themselves or others.