“Do I need to have Power of Attorney for aging parents?” In short, yes. Having a Power of Attorney (POA) is kind of like having a will— while it’s not legally required, having one in place will make loved ones lives much easier should something happen that renders the holder incapable of making decisions for him/herself. Typically we think of seniors when considering the need for POAs, but in reality, anyone over the age of 18 can have this legal documentation created. However, the key to making this something that benefits all is to have it created before it’s actually needed.
Nobody likes to think about bad things happening, but that’s why we have health insurance and car insurance, right? At some point, most seniors will need some kind of help from a POA, and if it were you, wouldn’t you want to have some say in WHO that person would be?
First, let’s clarify the different types of POAs. For this post, we’ll assume an adult daughter will be the POA for her mother.
A General POA allows the daughter to make any financial or legal decisions on her mother’s behalf. Her mother does not have to be incapacitated for this to be in effect. Perhaps the mother just wants a little extra help with finances, paying bills, dealing with investments, etc. But…. if the mother becomes incapable of making decisions, the general POA becomes null and void, so this is not ideal for aging parents.
A Medical POA goes into effect if/when her mother becomes incapacitated and cannot make decisions for herself. This allows the daughter to make any and all decisions regarding her mother’s medical care. It’s important for the daughter to understand what her mother’s wishes were before she becomes incapacitated, hence the reason for getting these lined up earlier rather than later. These decisions can include things like release of medical records, insertion of feeding tubes, surgery, selection of nursing home and organ donation.
You might call this the two-for-one POA as it covers both financial and medical decision making. This one is especially recommended for aging parents as it stays in effect if the parent becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions. (A non-durable POA actually becomes VOID if the parent becomes incapacitated.)
This is not one we recommend for caregiving situations with parents and adult children since it is typically used for short term situations, like buying real estate. It is, just as stated, limited to a specific time period.
This one is tricky. One might think this would be a good route for seniors since a Springing POA goes into effect only when the parent becomes incapacitated. However, when the time comes, the issue is that there may be some debate about what qualifies as “incapacitated.” Evaluations by medical professionals could become time consuming and expensive. And even the parents themselves may try to deny the need. If this route is chosen, the criteria for determining incompetence must be very specific and detailed.
What are the steps to take in setting up a power of attorney for aging parents?
- Have the conversation with your parent.
It might be a difficult one to bring up, but maybe you first ensure you have created POA documentation for yourself. You can use that as a conversation starter with your parent, even talking about all the different types of POAs there are and why you chose the one you did. Just like a will, it’s something you do for your loved ones.
- Talk about possible candidates.
Do you have siblings? Is one of them more fitting to be the POA? Don’t feel obligated to be the designated appointee. And don’t make your parent feel that they need to choose you since you are guiding them in this. However, it does need to be someone they absolutely trust. Because medical decisions and financial management are so completely different, it’s not uncommon for someone to choose two people as “agents.” We recommend talking with a lawyer about these finer points to make sure it is in the best interest of the parent.
- Meet with a Lawyer
Once your parent has determined who the POA “agent” will be, then it’s time to meet with the lawyer and make it official. Be sure to talk at length with the attorney and get all of your questions answered. It’s very important to know what the POA allows the “agent” to do and not to do.
If a power of attorney for aging parents is not in place when a parent becomes incompetent to make decisions for themselves, it can make an already stressful time of life even more stressful. For example, if there have been signs of early dementia, we recommend getting POAs set up as soon as possible. Patients with dementia can experience paranoia which can, in turn, cause hesitancy with executing a POA. So while you are coming to grips with the disease, you now have to navigate a legal journey that could include filing for guardianship, court dates and legal fees.
While we recommend meeting with a lawyer, if cost is an issue, there are simple online forms that may be available, but rules vary by state, so be sure to read the fine print or do more research on that if you go that route. The important thing is to start the conversation early.
The Nursing Team is a home care agency based in Lee’s Summit, MO and serving the surrounding Kansas City, MO area. We offer a wide range of services and our mission is to transform stressful caregiving situations into ones of JOY™.