Saturday, January 3, 2009

Expert help

One of thPicture of the scales of justicee important things that a family member can do is to seek expert help for difficult problems. (And I don't mean me!) With financial and health Power of Attorneys (POA), it was my responsibility to handle my Mom and Dad's finances as well as health issues. When Mom died so suddenly, it was important to get assets transferred into Dad's name. With POA I was responsible for care, dealing with the private and public agencies: the Long-Term Care (LTC) home, CCAC, the bank, lawyers, accountants, and any number of people involved in my parent's lives.

These legal documents are essential in working with outside agencies. A will, it need not be complicated, is crucial to streamlining the process. POA is important to allow you to be the Alternate Decision Maker once an ailing family member is too ill. My parents had both Wills & Living Wills and they were determined not to be kept alive longer than was comfortable. The LTC home had me fill in such forms. Once Dad lay ill and dying I did not want him transported to a hospital. Firstly, hospitals don't like getting in patients from LTC as they tend not to be discharged, and are at great risk for being unable to find a suitable placement. We had a Do Not Resuscitate order to ensure that Dad was not treated unfairly in his palliative conditions.

My Mom was taken to hospital during her last hours, as I was out of town, my poor brother was on his own, and this was a huge mistake. What bothers me is that n one phoned me. I still have to get over that one. I didn't phone, if I did, they would have been away, and Dad was unable to speak on the phone. I think, in her own mind, Mom thought there was something they could do, but they could not. She had oxygen to keep her comfortable. She had some mild pain medication. It really drained her to get there and only be sent home. She was determined to die at home. She had been declared *palliative by her physician and it was only a matter of time. I had had that conversation with the doctor who made a house call. Unfortunately, I did not discuss pain management. I had no clue.

We had to transfer ownership of their van into Dad's name after Mom died. He had it transferred into Mom's name, since due to his seizures and subsequent medications he had had his driver's licence taken away from him. The family physician ensured that this was made so. Dad was not amused. In fact he was furious. Mom hadn't driven in 30 years. She had trouble renewing her licence. It took me 4 trips to the Motor Vehicle Licence bureau to have the change made. But I digress.

Our accountant, bless him, knew how ill Dad had been. We found that on behalf of Dad we could claim a income tax credits once his physician had filled in a form. The family doctor in Ontario has to fill in a tax form called T2201 (Disability Tax Credit Information) that documents the extent of his disability, his physical, social, emotional, and cognitive limitations that demanded extra care and expenses.

Dad's brain tumour was such a horrific disability, and we spent much in the way of prescriptions, special clothing, extra equipment (walkers, wheelchairs, hearing aids), lab fees, and human resources, (therapists), and these could all be claimed. In the year a person dies, these expenses can be claimed for the previous 24 months, in a Medical Expense Tax Credit, whether you or your dependents paid for them.

In addition, it would behoove you to seek advice from an accountant as Ontario Property and sales tax credits apply when one spouse lives at home and the other is placed in Long-Term Care.

Our lawyer was incredibly helpful. There were many details I simply could not manage emotionally and I had the estate pay for their work, expertise and time, as the executor. It relieved me no end. Every time a piece of mail came for my late parents it broke my heart. It meant more work for me - telling people they had passed away, and trying to cancel accounts and remove their names from every mailing list in the nation.

I only wish my parents had had estate planning advice, since they could have sold us the property, or transferred the cottage into our names. This would mean we could avoid the cruel taxes based on the value of the estate. But I know how many families avoid such conversations until it is too late.
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*Palliative care addresses the physical and psychological aspects of end of life. It involves:
  • Pain and other symptom management;
  • Social, psychological, cultural, emotional and spiritual support;
  • Caregiver support; and,
  • bereavement support.

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