When a parent or family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can be an overwhelming process trying to figure out what steps to take next, especially regarding the legal and financial aspects of their care.
Questions such as, “what is power of attorney?” and “how do I pay for care?” may be flooding your mind and causing you and your family additional stress. If your parent or relative has not yet appointed a power of attorney, the process of getting it may now be more difficult, but it is still possible.
Oaks Senior Living offers Alzheimer’s and dementia care in communities throughout Georgia. We know that receiving the news of this type of diagnosis can be emotional, and it may be challenging to navigate through so many unknowns. Our team is sharing how you can obtain power of attorney after your parent or loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
What is Power of Attorney?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states, “a power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone else to act on your behalf.” In many cases, a power of attorney is assigned in order to plan for the future. This document allows a trusted individual, the agent, to make decisions regarding finances and care if and when a person, the principal, can no longer make these decisions for him or herself.
Common Types of Power of Attorney
General Power of Attorney
This type of power of attorney allows an agent to act both financially and legally on behalf of the principal, giving him or her the ability to:
- Sign documents
- Handle banking transactions
- Buy or sell assets
- Trade and sell stock
- Pay bills and cash checks
- Enter contracts
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is more limiting than a general power of attorney in that it will only go into effect if the principal is deemed “incapacitated.” This type of power of attorney grants the agent authority:
- Medical treatment
- Surgical procedures
- Feeding tubes and artificial hydration
- Organ donation
- Selection of health care or senior living communities
- The release of medical records
The agent of a medical power of attorney has to make sure the principal’s wishes are upheld and carried out.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney remains intact even after the principal is declared incapacitated, making it the most recommended type for individuals diagnosed with a form of dementia.
According to Legal Zoom, “the purpose of a durable POA is to plan for medical emergencies, cognitive decline later in life, or other situations where you’re no longer capable of making decisions.”
Obtaining Power of Attorney
Early Stages of Dementia
During the early stages of dementia, individuals should be able to go through the normal process of obtaining a power of attorney. Planning and establishing a power of attorney well before a diagnosis occurs is ideal. However, if your parent or family member was recently diagnosed and can still understand the document, he or she can still get a power of attorney established. Work with an elder care attorney to help you navigate the process.
Mid – Late Stages of Dementia
If your parent or relative is deemed legally “incapacitated” based on their cognitive function, he or she can no longer sign a power of attorney document. Even if this is the case, you may still be able to become a conservator. While this is not the same as a power of attorney, a conservator has the ability to make certain decisions.
To become a conservator, you will have to petition the court. During this process, a judge will appoint medical professionals to examine your family member and determine their competence and understanding of what is happening. Once this process is complete, a judge will review the case and may grant you the title of conservator. It is important, though, to work with an experienced elder care attorney to help guide you through the process, as it can be long and overwhelming.
Handling these types of legalities in advance is the best way to avoid complications with obtaining power of attorney, even if the need for one never arises. To learn more about the senior living options we offer in Georgia, we encourage you to contact a member of the Oaks Senior Living team.