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Gaining Power of Attorney from a Parent with Dementia: 4 Tips to Make it Easier

A Power of Attorney, or “POA”, allows an individual to appoint another individual (or organization) to manage their affairs if and when they become unable to do so. There are several different types of POAs to address a variety of situations and levels of control. A Durable Power of Attorney is most often granted by individuals in early stages of dementia, because, as the term “durable” suggests, it will continue to be valid after he or she is no longer able to make their own decisions.

When does your parent need to grant Power of Attorney? Now!

As a memory care provider, we occasionally will have a family member come to us seeking care for a parent who is in the later stages of dementia. We ask if they have been granted Power of Attorney. This takes some families by surprise who were not aware of the legal requirements of making these kinds of decisions. Now, they will need to find an attorney and start from scratch. And, because their loved one is no longer capable of making decisions, the process is more complicated. That is why it is important for your parent and you to take action while he or she is still cognitively aware and able to grant Power of Attorney.

The more organized you are, the easier the process will be.

Here are steps you can take now towards obtaining a Power of Attorney that take into consideration your parent as well as other family members.

  1. First, understand what is involved. Being granted Power of Attorney is an enormous responsibility. Whomever is granted POA will have ultimate authority in all decisions that affect your parent’s finances, livelihood and health. Take the time to understand the obligations associated with POA.
     
  2. Then, schedule a family meeting. Determine who is in the best position to take on the responsibilities of POA. Some family members may, in their eagerness to help, accept immediately. Make sure, however, that he or she understands the responsibilities that come with the POA.
     
  3. Now have a talk with your parent. 
    1. Broach the subject calmly.
    2. Explain what a Durable Power of Attorney is and why it’s important to do it now.
    3. Be clear as to which family member(s) are able and willing to take on the responsibility.
    4. Talk about the advantages of having a family member “on their side” to make sure their best interests come first in all decisions.
    5. Expect some resistance. No one likes to give up control of his own life and personal business. Your mom or dad may not be eager to share the details of their financial situation with you. Be patient.
       
  4. Finally, locate an attorney who specializes in elderly law. Having tackled the above steps in advance will help make the remainder of the process run more smoothly.

Of course, if your parent is in a more advanced stage of dementia, you will need to arrange for a doctor’s assessment to confirm his or her level of cognition. The doctor may have to testify in court as well. At this point, only a court order can grant the Power of Attorney.

While gaining Power of Attorney is not a simple process, you and your parent will be glad you did it as they become less able to contribute to their own well being. Taking steps now will help make the process run more smoothly. Most importantly, it will give your mom or dad the peace of mind that someone they trust and love will be looking out for them when they are no longer able to.