Often, home caregivers are tending to individuals who may not now, or may not at some time in the future, be able to always act on their own behalf. These home caregivers may be designated as having power of attorney in such instances, in order to make important financial and fiduciary decisions when the loved one is incapable of doing so. For home caregivers in such a situation, the following tips can come in handy.
- Know what the power of attorney says. It’s important to understand just what powers an individual has and under what circumstances they are valid. Often the powers are broad; other times they are limited, so knowing what one can and cannot do is essential.
- Be careful about personal reimbursements. Whenever possible, pay for legitimate expenses for the loved one with the loved one’s money rather than one’s own. Sometimes this can be a little hard to avoid. For example, a caregiver who drives his aunt to doctor appointments would be justified in allocating an appropriate amount of money to cover gas expenses; he would not be justified in using the loved one’s money to buy a new set of tires.
- Gather all financial information. It’s difficult to manage a person’s finances if one doesn’t have a full picture of that person’s debts, money, property, etc. Be sure to gather all of the pertinent information — mortgages, pensions, insurance documents, credit card statements, stocks, bonds, real estate holdings, etc., — so that a true picture of their financial worth can be obtained. If money is owed to the loved one, take steps to collect.
- Get certified copies of the document. It’s important to hold on to the original power of attorney document. Banks or other institutions may request a certified copy, so keep a few on hand.
- Keep receipts. Do the best to keep receipts for everything, but especially for any items purchased using cash. Be sure to mark the exact items purchased on the receipt.
- Always keep the loved one’s best interests in mind. Home caregivers with power of attorney have a responsibility to make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure the best interests of the loved ones they represent are met.