5 Ways You Can Help a Senior (including yourself) WITHOUT hiring a lawyer.
Hey, lawyers are, generally speaking, great people. We're curious and want to be helpful. But I know people resist reaching out to us, sometimes because they don't have the budget for a lawyer and sometimes because they don't know what to expect.
The good news is: There are lots of things you can do to help a senior or disabled person, or to help yourself, without visiting a lawyer. Here are some suggestions:
1. Make a "Open in Case of Emergency" Folder and make sure your family knows where to find it. This should include copies of your power of attorney and health care directives, your health insurance and other insurance information, your doctor's name and phone numbers, your financial accounts (including online only accounts and credit card accounts), and information on all bills which absolutely must be paid monthly. If you have pets, your folder should include information about their veterinarian too. Then, in case you are in an accident or fall ill, all the information your family needs will be in one place.
2. Complete a health care directive (aka "living will") or a Physician's Order on Life Sustaining Treatment form, and discuss your wishes with your family. A health care directive form is here, and a POLST form is here. The POLST must be completed with your doctor, but you can complete a health care directive on your own. End of life decisions can be tough to talk about, but believe me, it is even tougher for your family when you don't talk about them.
3. Take advantage of the great resources our community has to offer. Start with Area Agency on Aging and Disability of Southwest Washington. They can answer questions about insurance, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, in-home services, and much more at no cost to you.
4. Apply for Veterans Benefits. You've earned them, and you deserve them! Did you know there is a Washington State office which helps Veterans apply for benefits? Check out the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.
5. Report abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation. You can call if you are being targeted or if you suspect someone else is suffering, and you can make an anonymous report.
I hope these suggestions are useful, and let me leave you with a word of caution. Please don't execute financial powers of attorney without the advice of a lawyer! Washington's power of attorney laws have recently changed, and an attorney can help draft a document which fits your exact needs.