Legal Considerations In Caring for an Elder

Caring for an elder loved one brings up many issues that can be daunting. One of these is the legal requirements and recommendations for those in this situation. Should you prepare an advanced directive? What about conservatorship and estate planning? Luckily, there are local and online resources for help with these questions.

“As we care for aging loved ones, we have all been told about the importance of having their legal documents in order,” said Sharon Kennedy, of Sharon Kennedy Estate Management.  “Certainly one of those important legal documents is the Advance Health Care Directive, where a loved one can identify an agent to act on their behalf in interacting with medical professionals and providing guidance with medical decisions. Despite the value of this document, only approximately one third of the US adult population has executed an Advance Health Care Directive.”

According to this article, too often seniors are taken advantage of, which is why adequate legal planning is crucial. Unfortunately, many families fail to address these preparations until it’s too late or the plan they thought they had in place goes awry. As a result, it is all too common for family caregivers to find themselves in sticky legal situations.

Luckily, in addition to online resources, there are local agencies who can help:

Alliance For Living & Dying Well conducts and supports a variety of programs and events that help facilitate people connecting with friends and loved ones in conversations about the relationship between life and death, and how to express their wishes about end-of-life care.

Hospice of Santa Barbara is a nonprofit organization that provides free compassionate care to people within the community experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness or grieving the death of a loved one. They provide support services including care management, professional and individual group counseling, mentorship and compassionate care to children, teens and adults.

Sharon Kennedy Estate Planning provides elder law services, specializing in legal issues related to aging like retirement planning, Medicaid, guardianship, and estate planning.

Online resources:

Alzheimer’s Association:

American Parkinson’s Disease Association:

Lewy Body Dementia Resource Center:

Information on advanced directives specifically for California residents:

And remember that Friendship Center is here to share the care–if you need help or advice with any caregiver issues, you can call to schedule a free caregiver navigator session with our Family Services staff: 805-969-0859.