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The right planning and knowing where to get advice can make all the difference in your caregiving experience. Follow these tips to keep you and your loved one healthy and happy.

No. 1: Have the Conversation Early

Don't wait until a medical emergency happens to have a talk with your loved one about long-term care.

"We should have this conversation on an ongoing basis about our own preferences for long-term care and those of our parents or loved ones," says Nancy Wilson, MSW, assistant director of the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine. "It's never too early."

You can invite your brothers, sisters, or other family members to the discussion. Contact your relatives before the meeting to find out what long-term plans your loved one may have already shared with them.

No. 2: Tackle Financial and Legal Issues

Ask if your loved one has a power of attorney document. It allows you or someone else to make medical and financial decisions if he's unable to do so himself now or in the future. You need separate documents for financial and health decisions. In many states, you can get them online for free. You can get a medical power of attorney form from a doctor's office.

Ask if he has a living will. It's a document that's used in end-of-life situations. It lists the medical treatments he wants or doesn't want to keep him alive if he's unable to speak for himself.

Go over your loved one's financial status. Has he saved for long-term care? Will he be eligible for Medicaid if he goes into a nursing home?

Many families sort out these issues on their own through online resources and the suggestions of others who've made long-term plans. But you might need professional advice for some situations. A lawyer who specializes in elder care can help.

No. 3: Organize Important Documents

"If you're overseeing your loved one's care, you're going to need their legal documents from time to time," says Tiffany Pippen, MSW, a family consultant at Family Caregiver Alliance. 

Ask your loved one to find these documents for you:

  • Birth certificate
  • Social security card
  • Driver's license or organ donor card
  • Property deeds
  • Car titles
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce decrees
  • Military discharge papers or other proof of military service
  • Medical records, including current medication list and immunization records
  • Will