A POA helps families avoid problems
Planning ahead and putting a durable power of attorney into place before it’s needed saves families from legal struggles during a healthcare crisis or financial emergency.
A power of attorney is a legal document that lets your older adult choose someone to act in their place when they’re no longer able to manage their own affairs. As your senior’s chosen representative, you could legally make decisions on their behalf, pay their bills, manage their investments, or direct their medical care.
Doctors get involved in POAs too
Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a San Francisco geriatrician, recently wrote about the importance of avoiding common power of attorney problems.
It’s important to hear a doctor’s perspective because they’re often the ones who determine if an older adult is no longer capable of making their own decisions — meaning, they’ve become incapacitated. That’s usually the key to activating a POA.
Geriatrician warns of problems determining incapacity
Dr. Kernisan noticed that many standard POA forms have unclear statements about when or how someone will be deemed incapacitated.
She also tells a story about an older woman who was cognitively impaired during a hospital visit. In that time, her POA agent took over and moved her to a facility. A few months later, the woman had recovered and was unhappy with the move, but had already lost her decision-making power.
Dr. Kernisan points out some common issues with determining capacity for POA:
- Capacity can be temporarily or permanently impaired. POA forms usually don’t address this and can lead to situations like in the story above.
- Most doctors aren’t trained to evaluate long-term capacity in seniors. POA forms usually don’t specify what qualifications the doctors need to have or what proof of incapacity they should provide.
- POA forms assume the doctor who makes the capacity determination is one who knows the person well, but that’s not always true. The POA wording usually allows any doctor, even one they’ve just met, to make the determination.
Dr. Kernisan points out a key flaw in most standard POA forms – how capacity is determined and by who. Even though this issue exists, she still agrees that it’s far better for seniors to have a POA than to have nothing that allows others to step in and help when needed.
To create a POA that properly protects your older adult, it’s best to talk with a reputable and experienced elder law attorney. They can help make sure the POA will be used appropriately to help your senior and save your family from unnecessary grief and expense.
By DailyCaring Editorial Staff