Coronavirus: Answering Our Clients’ Questions

Coronavirus: Answering Ou…

News about coronavirus, aka Covid-19, is everywhere. Taking in the news, which changes daily or even hourly, feels like trying to drink from a fire hose. Most of us have never experienced anything like this, which means it can feel necessary to listen to every update, but also overwhelming when we do.

We’re hoping to provide two things in this blog post: reassurance, and practical answers to questions we have been getting from our clients. Obviously, we are not medical professionals or epidemiologists, so we can’t tell you how long this crisis will last or what medical steps to take to prepare yourself (and there are other sources out there for that).

But our business involves two things central to this coronavirus crisis: planning, and helping older people. And with regard to those things, we believe we can offer some guidance.

My elderly mother is afraid to go out to do her banking, shopping, and other business—and I don’t want her to! How can I help her?

This is one of the most frequent questions we’re getting. Of course you don’t need any special documents to do someone’s grocery shopping for them, but banking and other financial transactions require a power of attorney. If your older loved one does not have a durable financial power of attorney in place, now is the time to have them execute one.

A durable power of attorney allows a person to choose an agent to conduct business on their behalf. “Durable” means the agent’s authority lasts even if the person granting it (the principal) becomes incapacitated. Depending on the principal’s needs, the agent’s authority can be narrowly-defined, or very broad. We can draft a power of attorney so that your loved one can give you immediate authority to handle their finances.

If my parent gets too ill to make their own decisions, can I make medical decisions on their behalf?

If your parent is unable to make their own medical decisions, you can make decisions for them if you are their designated patient advocate. A Designation of Patient Advocate is a medical power of attorney form through which your parent can grant you decision-making authority for health care, much as a durable financial power of attorney does for financial matters.

My parents’ nursing home isn’t allowing any visitors! How can I check on them?

Because elderly people, especially those with underlying health issues, are so vulnerable to the coronavirus, many nursing homes, assisted living facilities and foster care homes are strictly limiting access to keep residents healthy.

Because elderly people, especially those with underlying health issues, are so vulnerable to the coronavirus, many nursing homes, assisted living facilities and foster care homes are strictly limiting access to keep residents healthy. As of this writing, many facilities are limiting access only to immediate family members who are responsible for a resident’s care, including advocates named in medical powers of attorney, or persons named in a HIPAA authorization. If you need these documents, we can help.

My sister is my dad’s named advocate at his nursing home, but she’s out of state right now. Can I replace her?

If a primary named advocate is unavailable for some reason, they can sign a temporary renunciation of their authority. Authority can be granted under a HIPAA authorization for you to talk to medical personnel caring for your loved one and to visit them.

What should my parent’s nursing home be doing to keep residents safe?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a list of common sense recommendations, which all nursing homes and care facilities (regardless of where located) should be following right now. These include:

  • Encouraging personal protective measures among residents, clients, and staff, including hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Encouraging residents, clients, and staff to stay home (or in their private quarters) when they are sick and to notify program administrators of illness.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (think doorknobs, railings, keyboards, cell phones, and light switches).
  • Making sure hand sanitizers and other supplies for cleaning hands are readily accessible throughout the facility.
  • If caring for an individual living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
  • Practice “social distancing” as much as possible, by reducing the size of gatherings, staggering meal schedules, and limiting programs with external staff.
  • Limiting visitors to only those who are absolutely necessary and screening visitors for temperature and respiratory symptoms.
  • Maintaining contact with individuals at risk of severe illness who are no longer able to attend day care programs.

If your parent’s care facility is not taking these measures, you should ask the administration why not, and urge them to do so. If you do not get a sufficient response, contact your county's long-term care ombudsman's office for assistance.

My small business has never faced anything like this! What should we be doing?

One of the ripple effects of the coronavirus is its effect on the economy, especially small businesses. We have helped many of our clients establish business continuity plans. A business continuity plan is a protocol for businesses to continue operations in the face of natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods, or other potential threats to a business, like a pandemic.

Like a fire drill, a business continuity plan helps you anticipate what you’ll do in a time of chaos or stress, so that if disaster strikes, you won’t have to figure things out on the fly. With a business continuity plan in place, you can minimize disruption to business for yourself, for your employees, and for any clients who may be counting on you.

Everything is so up in the air right now, I haven’t had a chance to work on my taxes. Can I get an extension?

You may have heard that the federal government extended first the income tax filing deadline, then the payment deadline, from April 15 to July 15. Not all states have followed suit, so there is a possibility your state taxes will still be due on April 15. However, things are changing rapidly in the response to this situation, so by the time you read this, things may have changed. Check with your state treasury department to be sure of your tax filing/payment obligations.

The coronavirus is uncharted territory, and that makes it intimidating, but we will get through this—together. Our office is available to confer with you via telephone or videoconference if needed, as well as for in-person consultations when appropriate. Please feel free to contact us with any concerns you have about how this situation could affect you, your loved ones, or your business.

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