Just about
everyone understands that our elders are at greater risk because of the corona
virus. The facts are inescapable: risk of serious illness is worse for those
over 65, especially with other medical conditions like high blood pressure as
one example. Vulnerability to COVID-19 is highest for those 85 and up. What
does all this mean for you, a family member?

Getting legal
paperwork in order is essential now

It means a scary
emotional journey. No one wants to think about it. We feel we can’t control
anything. We follow the mandates of social isolation or quarantine, and using
all other protective measures we hear about from the CDC but that doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything but staying
away. There is one thing you can control though. That is to have your aging parents’ legal documents in
order just in case serious illness happens
.

We have to face
one painful truth: this pandemic could mean that
your vulnerable loved one falls victim. It could mean hospitalization at a
point when your loved one can’t speak for himself, and you must be that voice
or decision maker. As a former public health nurse myself, I have seen risks of
contagious disease before but never anything nearly this lethal. The spread of
this disease is stunning.

As
a lawyer also, I can only urge families to take advantage of the time you and
your loved ones have when you must stay at home to find out if all the
essential legal documents they need are in place and up to date. That means
reviewing their estate planning items (will and/or trust), their Durable Power
of Attorney and their Advance Healthcare Directive (also called a healthcare
power of attorney or healthcare proxy). Why now? Because you probably have the
time to look into this and they do too. Further, you may need some or all of
these things sooner than you thought. One thing my estate planning attorney
friends tell me is that a large number of clients hire them to draft or update
the will and trust and then the client never finishes the job by actually
signing the paperwork.. Could your parents be among them? Find out. Don’t
entirely trust the statement “we took care of all that.” If it is not signed it
is not valid. Ask to see it. Perhaps the corona virus threat is an extra
motivator.

Don’t
you have to go to the lawyer’s office? What if you’re not supposed to travel,
and to stay at home? All that you need can likely be done digitally, by
scanning and emailing documents back and forth or using the U.S. Mail. My
husband and I were in the midst of updating our own legal documents when the
stay at home order was issued in CA. We cancelled our in-person meeting, and
met with our estate planner on Zoom. We emailed back and forth and the attorney
sent us what we needed to fill out. Getting it done is important. If you have
multiple trusts, inch-thick packages of paper, you will want to mail them where
they need to go. The post office is open.

A
New Tool

I
recommend a new resource endorsed by the American Bar Association, our largest
volunteer legal organization in the U.S. It is a mobile app called Mind Your Loved Ones (MYLO). It
gives individuals and their family members the ability to store their own and
each other’s health care directives, critical medical information, and other
related data on their phones and to send this information directly to health
care providers (e.g. doctors, hospitals, rehab facilities, home health
providers, insurance companies, etc.) by email, fax or text. Family users can
share information and profiles.

Imagine how this
would help you if you are a designated agent on an aging parent’s healthcare
directive. If your elder gets hospitalized, you have all their healthcare info,
diagnoses, medications and doctors contact data accessible on your phone on
MYLO’s private server. The subscription is $9.99 per year renewed automatically
until you shut it off.

Takeaways:

On one of those
frequent calls we hope you are currently making to your aging parents and other
loved ones is to ask about the will and trust. Find out when it was last
updated. If it’s been years since anyone reviewed it, get it updated. Ask
who is appointed
as the agent with Power of Attorney and healthcare
decision-making authority. Suggest getting MYLO or sign up for it
yourself. Then take the time to get all the information you can to store on
MYLO. Whether you need it during this crisis or not, you will likely need it at
some point. Now there is something you actually CAN control. Get to it and
you’ll know you’ve done something positive at this frightening time.

For guidance and coaching with difficult aging parents
who resist sharing information, contact us at AgingParents.com. We offer you our professional expertise. All
appointments are available by phone, Skype or Zoom with your nurse-lawyer,
psychologist team.