My neighbor, Jan, anxiously followed the ambulance carrying her mother to the emergency room.  Her mom, Miss Sylvia, had fallen at church.  There was a gash on her head and her arm lay at an unnatural angle.  She was frightened and in pain, which exacerbated her dementia.

When it came time to sign Consent for Treatment forms at the hospital, staff members asked who had Power of Attorney to sign on Miss Sylvia’s behalf. 

Power of Attorney?  Well, Jan had planned to check on that, but hadn’t quite gotten around to it….. 

Proactive is Powerful

Savvy caregivers know that being proactive can prevent situations like the one Jan and Miss Sylvia experienced. Knowing whether or not your Loved One has assigned Power of Attorney, and who is their designated agent, can stave off snafus and misunderstandings when challenges arise for your Loved One.

Types of Power of Attorney

As a caregiver, there are several types of Power of Attorney that could impact your abilities and responsibilities for your Loved One. Let’s look at three of them:

1.  Medical Power of Attorney

If you are designated as your Loved One’s agent for Medical Power of Attorney, you are given authority to make health care decisions if your Loved One is unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make these decisions on their own.  If your Loved One wishes, their Medical Power of Attorney can include decisions regarding life support and end of life care as well. 

2.  Durable Power of Attorney

If your Loved One designates you as their agent for Durable Power of Attorney, you hold the broad powers and rights that your Loved One holds for themselves.  This includes things like paying bills, filing tax returns, making business decisions, buying and selling property, and so on.  These powers remain in effect until revoked or until the death of the Loved One.  

3.  General Power of Attorney

General Power of Attorney is similar to Durable Power of Attorney.  The difference is General Power of Attorney ends at the moment the Loved One becomes incapacitated and is not able to make decisions for themselves.  

Two important notes

Again, being proactive is best.  Encourage your Loved One to formalize their wishes and meet all legal requirements as soon as possible.  Don’t wait for a crisis before taking action.  

Second, use the information here as a jumping-off point to do your own due diligence.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Power of Attorney decisions, so research and then connect with a legal advisor.  

Of course, the information here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.