Who steps up to the plate when a loved one is no longer able to care for themselves? This assumption is based on tradition. It is typically what we saw happen for our grandparents or great-grandparents.
Traditionally, larger close families took care of an incapacitated family member. Think of the living arrangements from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the elderly mother moved in with her son, his wife and children. Not only did they step up to the plate but they also had aunts and uncles who were all available to provide additional support.
However, while these customs were common in the United States a generation ago, times have changed significantly. Now, women (who were the traditional caregivers) are just as likely to be working full time as their spouses. Furthermore, families don’t live near one another as much as in the past. We are just a more transient society now then ever. The result is there are fewer family members who will step up when a loved one is no longer able to care for themselves.
Thus, the need today to identify what happens to a parent (or potentially ourselves) in the event of incapacity is more salient than ever. There are a variety of options available as long as you plan in advance. One option is to have an incapacitated individual move closer to family members who are available to provide care. Another option is to utilize institutional care coupled with individual care providers.
For those of us who do not have a good choice for a caregiver, they can plan to hire a professional caregiver to oversee the loved one’s needs. (take a look at www.forpapassake.com as a possible resource). You can hire a healthcare guardian or power of attorney agent who will make the main decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. These healthcare surrogates will work with your selected trustee or financial agent. However, while a financial agent make decisions regarding assets, the healthcare agent will make decisions about your overall care.
Whatever your situation, proper planning is important to provide the best outcome possible. It is challenging to work with incapacity. It is best to plan as much as possible in advance.