How Adult Child's Failure to Use Power of Attorney Can Put Senior Parent at Risk
This article highlights the risks to a senior parent's health and safety if an adult child appointed as agent under a power of attorney is unwilling to use it due to fear of angering his parent.From an aging parentís perspective, the concept of granting power of attorney is not nearly as intimidating when you are in good health and fully capable of living without assistance. When a senior makes a power of attorney in these circumstances as part of routine estate planning, he may tell his children he wants them to make whatever decisions are necessary if he is unable to care for himself.
However, when the time comes for an adult child to take action under the power of attorney, particularly if the action involves moving the parent to a long term care facility, the child may face an emotional battle with the parent. To the extent the adult child allows the ailing parent to continue in the role of decision-maker, the child may place the parent at risk to serious injury and even premature death.
Learn About Power of Attorney Forms
For an overview of how a power of attorney works and the steps required to make a power of attorney, see
Are You Struggling With Issues Related to the Care of a Senior Parent?
If you are an adult child responsible for decisions regarding the care of your elderly parent, you may be in a situation similar to the one described above.
See conservatorships.Fortunately, there are many resources to help you approach your parent about these difficult issues. There are also several excellent guides on how to deal with the stress of caring for an ill or incapacitated parent. Refer to our list of
Long Term Care Books for helpful guides.Copyright 2020 Pennyborn.com. All RIGHTS RESERVED.
When Using Power of Attorney is Necessary
The following story illustrates how a senior parentís health and safety is jeopardized when an adult child fails to take action regarding the parentís living situation, despite such child being authorized to do so under a power of attorney:Liam is a 50 year old pharmaceutical sales representative with a wife and two young children. He travels throughout the Eastern United States for his job. Liamís mother, Claudia, is 84. Two years ago, her health began to decline and she was diagnosed with dementia. See dementia and wills. She also suffers from several other chronic health conditions which require a long list of medications and frequent medical appointments. Liam is only able to visit his mother once a month because her home is a 4 hour drive each way from where he lives.Liam has talked to his mother for over a year about moving to a nearby assisted living facility that offers a continuum of care, including a skilled nursing facility. He also took her to look at several other senior housing complexes that offer long term care. Each time Liam summons the courage to ask his mother to consider moving to assisted living, Claudia acknowledges she needs to move, but always provides an excuse about why now is not the right time.At first, Liam was frustrated by his mother's unwillingness to move out of the large two-story home she shared with Liam's father before his death a few years ago. But now his frustration has turned into grave concern that something terrible is going to happen to his mother because she lives alone. His mother has sustained serious injuries on at least three occasions during the past few months from falling. She also admitted she was confused about her whereabouts on several occasions.
In addition to the inner turmoil Liam has with regard to his mother's living situation, he is being pressured by his wife, other family members, and Claudia's friends about her need for around the clock care. Claudiaís neighbors have done what they can to check in on her and help her with errands such as grocery shopping. Her neighbors even accompanied her to the emergency room recently. However, they have made clear to Liam that Claudia needs to be in an environment where she can receive the attention she needs.
Issues Adult Children Must Consider When Caring For Elderly Parents
The stress of caring for an elderly parent can be overwhelming. In this case, Liam is beginning to have difficulty concentrating at work and there is increasing tension in his marriage. Like many seniors, Claudia seems unable to come to terms with the implications of her failing health. She also seems unconcerned about how her situation is affecting her adult son and his family.
While Liam is aware he has a valid power of attorney document authorizing him to make arrangements for his mother's care, he has no intention of using it. His mother has been in control in their relationship for the past 50 years and going against her wishes is something he cannot contemplate. He has faced her wrath before, including when he pressed her to meet with an attorney and make an estate plan. She barely spoke to him for months. While she did ultimately meet with an estate planning attorney, she was very secretive about the process and pressuring his mother about end of life issues again is something he wants to avoid.But what are the consequences for Claudia of Liam's failure to act? Claudia is living alone in a home that is not set up for senior living, especially a frail senior with severe health problems. She has increasing periods of being disoriented and frequently takes too much of certain medications, such as sleeping pills. She is one step away from another fall, which could leave her unconscious or worse. Without a home monitoring system or home health care providers, which Claudia has refused to hire, there is a strong possibility Claudia could go unattended for hours or even days after another fall. She could be unable to find her way home the next time she ventures out alone for groceries or fall victim to someone who may take advantage of her during a period of confusion.
Clearly, it is in Claudia's best interest to be in an assisted living apartment or a nursing home that offers the care she needs. Claudia's health will continue to decline. But Liam's inability to step out of his role as child in the parent-child relationship has actually placed his mother's health and safety at risk.
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