WINNEBAGO - There are legal options to protect someone you love as they age.
People can appoint someone with power of attorney, says Deb Barnes, administrator of Parker Oaks Communities, a nursing home in Winnebago. Power of attorney grants the named person the ability to take care of finances or medical decisions for the other person.
"You must make sure it's someone you absolutely trust," Barnes said. "That person has access to bank accounts and has the same rights you do over your accounts and business. They can withdraw money just like you do."
The time to talk about signing a power of attorney is before it's needed, says Cami Hafner, volunteer coordinator for Interfaith Caregivers, where she works with the elderly. Bring it up when parents are still healthy and of sound mind. If it helps, present it as an emergency problem, like who would take care of things if you were in a car crash and unconscious for a week? Having one in place is peace of mind.
"If a power of attorney is already in place, you don't have to worry," Hafner said.
A power of attorney can be tailored to the specific needs and wishes of the people involved and can be changed at the discretion of the one it serves, but a guardianship is not so flexible.
Appointing a guardian is done by the court, usually when a person is deemed no longer competent, Barnes said.
"A power of attorney doesn't take any rights away from you, [it] just gives someone the same rights as you," Barnes said. "Guardianship takes all rights away from you, so you can no longer make those decisions."