I love the AARP’s Sally Balch Hurme, and now she knows it. Together with the American Bar Association, she has published three checklists that I recommend to clients, including one for estate planning, a second for probate, and, perhaps my favorite, the ABA/AARP Checklist for Family Caregivers: A Guide to Making it Manageable (2015).
When the bottom falls out and you have to pick up the pieces for someone else, reach for the Checklist for Family Caregivers. Like the first two books, each chapter leads with to-do’s, explains what they mean, and ends with checklists to complete.
The forms are available for free at www.ambar.org/caregivers. Buy the book. For $20, Aunt Sally shares helpful hints your lawyer never knew, or that are expensive to learn on your own. Thought Mom needed a CPA? Maybe a daily money manager is a better fit (www.aadmm.com). Not sure how to manage money yourself? Aunt Sally suggests www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/managing-someone-elses-money/. (Here’s the Texas version). Hiring a sitter for Mom? Reach chapter 6, Deciphering Contracts.
Chapter 4, Making Decisions for Someone Else, is worth a semester of law school. Maybe two. Aunt Sally explains what it means to be an agent, a trustee, a representative payee, and a guardian, and does it well enough that lawyers and clients should take turns reading the chapter out loud to each other.
This one humbled me as I read it: you can’t get a power of attorney over someone; it has to be given to you. The agent doesn’t take over and make decisions for the principal. The agent makes sure the principal’s decisions are accomplished. In other words, if you have Mom’s power of attorney, you are her servant, not her master.
Checklists are not enough, and Aunt Sally knows it. She suggests www.guardianship.org for standards of practice that are as helpful to the amateur as the professional. When Dad falls in your lap, are you supposed to balance his checkbook or rebalance his portfolio first? Even if you are not a guardian, knowing where they start and what they do gives you something concrete to discuss with Dad and the rest of the family.
The references in the Checklist for Family Caregivers are golden, but How to Care for Your Aging Parents (3rd ed. 2014), by Virginia Morris, makes a nice companion title, especially when you’re tired of homework and just want an answer. Morris shares everything she knows; Balch Hurme highlights the shorter list of things every caregiver should know. Another classic to consider, The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss (6th ed. 2017).
Finally, visit www.davidsolie.com for practical advice and resources on the psychology of aging parents and older clients.