No surprise here — illness or disability can come without warning. We all know family, or friends, who have experienced a sudden shift in their health. Lifestyle, strokes, falls can all contribute to physical or mental breakdowns and impaired function.

If you have experienced the responsibility of caring for an aging parent or ailing loved one, you understand the benefit of organization, familiarization with local resources, and building up your network of financial, medical and other professional resources that can provide expertise.

Look into obtaining a power of attorney. This legal document enables you to make legally binding decisions on your loved one’s behalf, and to access his or her bank accounts and financial records. The person granting you power of attorney must generally do so in writing.

If your loved one cannot grant you power of attorney, a conservatorship could be an alternative. This is a court-ordered arrangement used when someone is not able to communicate with others or sign documents. A court-designated conservator would manage the individual’s assets in a way that is in the individual’s best interests.

Ask about the medical outlook for your parents. Sometimes the primary goal is getting mom or dad back on his or her feet. Sometimes it’s just stopping their condition from becoming worse. Get involved – discuss your parents’ prognosis with their doctor(s) to better understand their condition, and anticipate future needs.

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: