Ryan McEniff:
Hello everybody and welcome to The Caregiver’s Toolbox, tools for everyday caregiving where we give tips, tricks, and educational information regarding caregiving and the senior care industry. In episode nine today, we’re going to be talking about being an authorized representative for your loved one? My name is Ryan McEniff and I’m here with Janet, and we’ll get right into it.  Janet, what do we need to keep in mind and what do you mean by authorized representative for a loved one?

 

 What Is An Authorized Representative?

Janet:
Well, I think there are a lot of times when for your mother or your father you may want to get information for them. You want to get a test back. You want to try and figure out a Medicare bill or anything along those lines and there are protections so that not everybody can have access to your personal information. I think on the medical side, one thing that a lot of people have heard of is HIPAA. What HIPAA means is it’s Health Information and Accountability Act is what it means. It’s basically designed to protect your medical information from being in the hands of anybody that’s not authorized to have it.

Where it can play a role in our world with home care or with a hospital or assisted living is you as an individual have a right to say who has access to your information. You can’t just decide that all your kids can talk to the doctor. The doctor can’t accept that. There’s a little piece of paper that is a HIPAA consent form. I think where we run into it is you’ve got one or two siblings that are handling mom or dad’s case and then we get a call from a family member on the west coast and they want to know why we can’t explain some details to them. Well, mom or dad don’t have them as a HIPAA contact. Where this can be an issue for a lot of family members, we had this happen just a couple weeks ago where a husband who it just never occurred to anybody, he is not listed as his wife’s HIPAA contact. They had transferred her from one hospital to another and he was trying to find out where she was and the hospital couldn’t confirm whether he was there or not. It was just because that simple statement wasn’t in her medical record.

What To Keep In Mind When Becoming An Authorized Representative

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. With that being said, what do we need to keep in mind when we’re looking at becoming an authorized representative?

Janet:
Okay, the things that we want to know is with her medical record who has permission to have access to the information? It should be more than one person. Often it’s a local family member and then maybe it’s a brother or sister or somebody else. What I’ve done with my own family is even though my mom is my dad’s and my dad is my mom’s, I’m also the backup for both of them. You want to think that through and you really don’t want to be in the position I was in a number of years ago where we were filling out a form on the gurney in the emergency room because it’s not a time where you want to sit down and read the form. It’s just something you can get from any doctor’s office and you can just fill it out and give it to the doctor as part of the medical record. That’s probably the biggest one, the easiest one.

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely, but I mean it’s something that a lot of people just don’t do or they don’t have and causes quite a bit of a nightmare.

 

Being Married and Authorized Representative

Janet:
Yeah, they think if they can prove relationship, I’m the husband, I’m the wife, that’s not good enough to be considered an authorized representative. They don’t go with that. There are other documents and we could certainly get into more detail at another time, but like power of attorney, that is something that needs to be “invoked” and it means that the person can’t handle the matters on their own. Yet, something that I had learned is if you wanted to deal with a social security question for your mom, for your dad, even if you’re the power of attorney, social security doesn’t recognize a power of attorney. They have their own little form that you have to have filled out and they will make sure you are who you say you are before they’ll work with you. Everybody’s got a form. It’s good to know what they are and what you need it for.

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely, and so what are some of those other topics that you kind of look at when it comes to being an authorized representative for a loved one?

 

Authorized Representative: What Else is Involved?

Janet:
Well, other things are things like their driver’s license. There’s a whole issue of when someone shouldn’t be driving anymore. You can’t just take mom or dad’s driver’s license away from them. That’s something that unless they voluntarily give it up, you have to go through a doctor and you need to know that because that’s a hard conversation for a lot of people. Things like car registrations, they just forget to renew them or whatever needs to be done, and you need to know what does the register require for paperwork. Nine out of ten times, the best thing you can do is to have your parent with you so that they can at least acknowledge that you’re acting on their behalf but they’re present.

 

Authorized Representative: Banking and Money

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely, and then kind of summarizing it up, what about banking? We kind of went over a few of these things before in the last episode, but banking we haven’t really touched upon. What do you think about banking and being an authorized representative for a parent?

Janet:
Banking I think is really tricky and I’ve been trying to sort that out even with my own family because a lot of times in a family you’ve got maybe two siblings, one’s handling all the healthcare stuff and the other one’s going to handle the finances, but you need to know what you have access to and also what the consequences are to having access to that. I’m sure you’ve dealt with things with your dad in terms of are you a co-signer on a bank account, a checking account, what’s the best thing to do?

Ryan McEniff:
It can get very complicated because like you said when you’re dealing with money, it always gets complicated quickly. I know that when my mom passed away, my dad wanted me to be on all his bank accounts so that if he ever had a stroke or had something where he couldn’t communicate his wishes that I would be able to write checks out of those accounts to pay for private home care or pay for whatever needed to get paid for, but because of the position I’m in with owning a business, that was advised against because those kind of became my assets with my name on them and then all of a sudden if I ever got sued or if something bad happened, those were assets that could be gone after. That is what our accountant said about that.

When you deal with banking you really need to talk to an accountant, but I would think that at a bare minimum you would want at least one shared account between you and your parent that had a certain amount of money in it, whether that was hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars that you would be able to write checks out of in case something bad happened and the house needed to still get paid, electricity still needed to be put on, private home care or assisted living needed to be paid for until you could sort out the rest of the estate at a later time three to six months down the road, but you had at least some money, a slush fund if you will, to be able to get through an emergency.

Janet:
Yeah, that’s a good point. I know that there are folks that don’t have anything set up or an authorized representative and then a parent dies and if you’re in the land of probate, you can’t even … Maybe your dad passes away and your mom is still there but isn’t one to pay the bills and if things aren’t set up properly, then you can’t even write checks to keep things afloat.

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely, and being in probate is no fun because as the family caregiver or the adult child, you are now getting the collection calls. You are now finding out that you’re the one that’s involved in this. Well, where’s our money? Well, where’s our money? What’s going on? Those are some of the issues, so if you can avoid probate and get that situation handled as soon as can be with an elder law attorney is who you’d want to go for that or a family law attorney. That’s always advisable on my end because it makes the transition when somebody passes away a lot easier than getting hounded with a bunch of calls from American Express or whoever it might be saying, “Hey, we haven’t got paid. We really need to talk here.” I would always recommend doing that even though it’s never fun talking about death, they always say death and taxes, it’s guaranteed. At some point in time it makes sense when somebody is still cognitively able to make their own decisions to sit down, do a will, and talk to an elder law specialist.

Janet:
Yeah, I remember a situation. It was really rather sad that there was someone whose mother needed to go to an assisted living or have 24 hour care at home and the money wasn’t set up properly and one of the sons said, “Okay, well I’ll pay the bills while we square this away,” and then once it had gone into thousands and thousands of dollars, his mother said, “Okay, so I will pay you back,” and it was a family relative that sued him saying, “You don’t have any right to that money. You can’t prove that.” We’d all like to think we have nice supportive families, but sometimes that can bring out the ugly side too and you can suddenly be in a lawsuit with a relative and you don’t want to be there.

Ryan McEniff:
Absolutely. I don’t think that will happen with me, though. I’m an only child so we always joke around, nobody else can sue me over it. You know what I mean?

Janet:
Well, I told my parents we’ll spend my inheritance before they go so I won’t worry about it either.

Ryan McEniff:
We’ll go out in a blaze of having fun.

 

Wrapping It Up: Authorized Representative

Janet:
There you go.

Ryan McEniff:
Excellent, well thank you very much, Janet, for your insight as always. This was episode nine, are you an authorized representative for your loved one? Thank you very much for listening to The Caregiver’s Toolbox, tools for everyday caregiving. Expect another episode next Tuesday, and thank you all for listening. Follow us on twitter @mwhomecare.  Have a great week.