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Fields related to the treatment of brain injury have improved by leaps and bounds over the last twenty to thirty years. People who have suffered severe traumatic brain injuries are today surviving from injuries that would have once been fatal. Health care professionals are able to manage associated medical issues and injury deficits left in the wake of traumatic brain injury better than ever before. This has led to brain injury survivors with serious impairments being able to live longer than could have been imagined just a short time ago. This also then means that many of these survivors will have need for others to serve as caregivers for them many years into the future (in some cases even for decades). These caregivers may be called upon not only to help with day-to-day activities but also may be legally responsible for making medical, legal and financial decisions. This brings us to an important question for those caregivers to consider. If something decisively unfortunate were to befall such a caregiver, have contingency plans been made to ensure that those care and legal responsibilities would continue to be sufficiently addressed? For example, let’s say that a forty year-old man survives an aneurysm which leaves him unable to make his own decisions and subsequently his sixty-five year-old mother takes over these responsibilities for him. A man that young in reasonably good health could fairly be expected to live at least another twenty years under such a circumstance, which would then put his mother at eighty-five. Can anyone guarantee that his then eighty-five year old mother would continue to have the ability to make such decisions for him? What happens if she faces a health issue such as Alzheimer’s or cancer that would effectively dismantle her ability to make his decisions for him? Can anyone even guarantee that she will survive all the way to eighty-five? Clearly, a plan needs to be put in place to designate a replacement to step into the mother’s critical role in this man’s life should she suffer incapacitation or pass away.
Putting together such a plan is no simple task and in many cases families will need to consult an attorney in order to formulate a coherent, legally binding plan. These plans will generally involve issues such as daily care, financial management and legal responsibilities. Questions have to be answered such as where the survivor will live and who will monitor disability or like payments should a current caregiver be unable to continue in his or her role. Also, plans may need to be updated over time to reflect changes. Using the earlier example, let’s say that in the mother’s will she appoints the survivor’s uncle to take over the legal responsibilities in her son’s life after she’s gone. If this uncle’s wife developed a serious illness that suddenly demanded all his time and energy, the mother would likely want to update her will and appoint a new person to be responsible in case she became incapacitated or passed away. Sometimes multiple people are listed in the plan (often in descending order), identifying a line of succession regarding those responsible for seeing to the survivor’s well-being. This even further bolsters guarantee of a survivor’s continued security. Sometimes roles are also divided among different individuals. As example, one person may be responsible for daily physical care while a different person might be assigned ultimate authority over medical decisions. No matter what plan is put in place (for this or for any other issue), the brain injury survivor should take part in the planning to the best of his or her abilities.
Planning for the future is a serious issue and should be started as early as possible. Most survivors’ brain injuries make entrance into life suddenly and without warning, and caregivers can just as abruptly have their own issues present that prevent them from maintaining their caregiver roles. For those that do not have the financial means to hire an attorney to develop a plan, there are legal aid offices throughout the United States that provide free legal services. Follow the link below to search for a legal aid office in the United States.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute: http://tlcrehab.org/
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