Caring for someone who can no longer do everything themselves may sometimes mean becoming involved in legal, financial and/or healthcare matters to make decisions on their behalf. Caregivers also sometimes require legal advice on particular matters regarding their own rights and responsibilities. Some of the people we interviewed spoke about legal issues related to caregiving. They found themselves learning about terms such as power of attorney, health care directives, living wills, and representation agreements. Such legal issues can be confusing or difficult to understand. It is highly recommended that you obtain professional advice from a lawyer, notary, bank manager or other advisor if you need help understanding the issues. You may want to clarify your role or the options available to you when your care recipient becomes mentally incapable of looking after themselves or their affairs.
Many different legal terms were mentioned in the interviews, some of which are specific to different provinces. We have provided a list and brief definitions of these terms in our Description of Legal Terms Document and you can visit our Information and links where you can also find other resources on this topic. In the section below, you can read about the experiences and messages from the people we interviewed with regard to legal issues.
Legal issues experienced by caregivers
Caregivers spoke about being confronted with the need to make legal arrangements for issues such as power of attorney, a living will or health care advance directive, or a representation agreement. Several caregivers had power of attorney for their care recipients, meaning that they had been legally appointed to manage the care recipients' business or property and to make financial, legal or healthcare decisions on their behalf. Alyce, for example, has power of attorney for her husband who became unable to make his own decisions. Drew, on the other hand, is the legal guardian of his mother, which means that he is responsible for decisions with regards to her health and healthcare.
It can be challenging to be confronted with these legal issues when you are busy caring for your friend or family member, although in many situations it is helpful to familiarize yourself with these kinds of arrangements and the options in advance.
Sheni's negative experience with relatives resulted in a long and costly battle over issues of power of attorney. Sheni participated in this on-line project so that she could warn others about how important it is to have clear legal guidance when you are caring for someone else.