Idaho Estate Planning is a founding member of the Idaho Care Planning Council, associated with the National Care Planning Council. Todays blog is written by Valerie Buck in association with the NCPC.
We all love our aging parents. In certain situations, a portion of our love must be devoted to assisting parents who have lost their ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. It is common, as time goes along, for the elderly to become unable to make sound decisions about a variety of issues includes finances, health care and managing themselves at home. Dementia, blindness, or frailty can all play a part in this loss of independence. Below are a few options for you to consider as you ponder on ways to assist a loved one.
Power of Attorney
Power of attorney grants legal authority to an individual to make decisions on behalf of another. Laws for creating a power of attorney vary from state to state and can be limited to specific issues or broadened to handle many issues such as personal and financial matters.
An advance directive is a document in which a person uses to make provisions for health care decisions in case that person becomes unable to make such decisions. There are two main types of advance directives: a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. In some cases, a hybrid of these two directives can be set up. 
This is a signed, witnessed document called a declaration or directive in which most instruct an attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical intervention from its signer if the signerâ€™s condition is terminal and is unable to make decisions about medical treatment. 
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
This is a signed, witnessed document in which the signer designates an agent to make health care decisions on behalf of the signer if the signer is temporarily or permanently unable to make such decisions. The signer does not have to have a terminal condition. The agent in this case will have the authority to decide if health care will be provided, withheld or withdrawn from the signer. 
In many states the terms guardianship and fiduciary are used interchangeably. The laws, however, governing these terms vary from state to state. According to Law.com, a fiduciary is an agent in whom complete confidence is placed by another in regard to either a particular transaction or all of one's general affairs or business. The relationship is not necessarily formally or legally established as in a declaration of trust, but can be one of moral or personal responsibility, due to the superior knowledge and training of the fiduciary as compared to the one whose affairs the fiduciary is handling.
Guardianship is an option available when an aging parent does not have a power of attorney or advanced directive already in place. Guardians are appointed based on professional opinions and a decision of the court once a person is declared incompetent. The court transfers the responsibility for managing finances, living arrangements and medical decisions to the guardian. This process can take a lot time. Guardians can be given limited or broad authority over an individual. Sometimes guardianship can be distributed to multiple people. Guardians may be required to report to the court on a regular basis about a variety of issues.
If someone is appointed a guardian, and the incapacitated person already has an agent under a durable power of attorney or health care advance directive, the court will normally determine whether the agent's authority shall continue.
At Idaho Estate Planning, we understand the challenges faced by elder Americans and their families. We have resources throughout the Treasure Valley, experts in the field of Elder Care & Planning. We have the experience and expertise to help you maintain your options and protect yourself as well as your loved ones now and into the future. Remember, good planning is no accident.