In Texas, there is an assumption that each adult has the capacity to make his or her own decisions. When old age, the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's, a serious injury or an illness impairs that person's ability to make wise choices, adults children often need to step up to the plate.
While there is no legal obligation for children to provide care for their parents in Texas, many do. Three years ago, a study revealed that four in 10 adults were providing care to older family members. That number will only rise as baby boomers age.
The importance of estate planning
Estate plans are not just for end-of-life issues, such as asset distribution after a death. Estate planning also includes matters of elder law and elder care planning. If properly established, an estate plan will contemplate long-term care, incapacity and Medicare eligibility.
Ideally, estate plans are established long before they are needed and during times when the creators' minds are clear. Unfortunately, many people find the planning process intimidating, are unwilling to think about their inevitable deaths or believe that that estate plans are unnecessary.
Understanding elder care options when there is no estate plan
If an aging parent's health or mental capabilities are fading, other options may be appropriate:
- Powers of attorney: A power of attorney grants a person (such as an adult child) the right to make business, legal and financial decisions on behalf of the incapacitated parent.
- Advance medical directives: A medical directive, also known as a health care directive or proxy, is a document that allow an appointee the right to make medical care decisions for a person who is no longer able to take care of him or herself.
- Living wills: A living will is different from a last will and testament. A living will gives guidance to family and medical personnel about stopping (or not starting) life support when a person is in a terminal condition with no reasonable chance of recovery.
- Guardianships: Guardianships are far more restrictive as they provide the guardian with more power over another person. Typically, this option is more common when there has been a crisis. For example, adult children who live out-of-state may notice during a visit that their parents are no longer able to take care of themselves or are subject to abuse or neglect. This process involves court intervention in Texas.
Seek help with planning and in times of crisis
Don't try to face these difficult situations on your own. No matter the situation, a skilled and experienced elder law attorney can provide guidance to child and parents alike.