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As we age, we tend to give direction and delegate. We gather a team. Sometime this happens so slowly that we hardly notice it. Sometimes it happens suddenly, perhaps temporarily, as we recover from an operation or a fall.

What the support team for an aging American should know:

No one can do it all. There are doctors, nurses and therapist. There may be a case manager. There is likely to be a home health aide who supports the family member or members who provide informal or stand-by support, often uncompensated. There may be volunteer services such as Meals on Wheels or Drive a Senior. There may be convenience services such as deliveries from the grocery and the drugstore, GrubHub, Lyft or Uber.

Whoever is on the team.

Team members need to know that there IS a team

Team members need to know that there is a team, who is on it and what their roles are. Many hands make light work – as long as each person is doing what they do well and people are not getting in one another’s way. A vision, coordination and communication can avoid conflict and help keep things from falling through the cracks.

Team members need to share a vision and know what is needed

When team members share a vision of what is needed today and what may be needed tomorrow, they can see how their parts make the whole. They can point out emerging or possible future needs that no one else may have thought of. They can think about their roles and what they can realistically commit to.

This will change over time. If a niece is getting married in the spring, her mother may be able to commit less time in the months leading up to the wedding. If a case manager is going back to school, planning for overlap between her and the new case manager can keep the team functioning smoothly.

Some of the team members need to know your benefit and insurance status to make sure that claims are processed and paid. Someone needs to make sure that the right people are hired for the right jobs and document their work in a way which the insurer will accept for payment or reimbursement. Someone may keep medical, insurance and government benefit applications and documents organized. Someone else may be in charge of getting competitive quotes for medical equipment and recommendations for equipment, home modifications or other large expenditures. Someone else can arrange for the equipment to be installed and the ramp, grab bars or other home modifications to be made.

Team members need to know who your agent is

To get a definitive answer about money, they may need to talk with the person whom you have named as your agent under a Durable [Financial] Power of Attorney. That person can pay the bills.

To get guidance on medical issues when you cannot communicate clearly, they need to talk with the person whom you have named as your agent under a Medical Power of Attorney. You may name several people as your “eyes and ears” in a HIPAA Medical Information Release Form. Only the person you name as your “voice” in your Medical Power of Attorney can speak for you. To Download the Medical Power of Attorney or HIPAA Medical Information Release Form, visit: Resources for Texans creating Wills, Trusts and planning estates.

Team members need to know that they are appreciated

Nothing can substitute for this.

For further information on putting together and supporting your team, see this Free Download: Resources for Older Americans and Their Families.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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