How can I speak to medical professionals on my mother’s behalf?

Q: My mother, 57, is receiving medical care through the VA of Michigan. I live in PA. My mother is having a hard time with the VA and isn’t emotionally capable of dealing with them. She suffers from PTSD and multiple other physical and mental ailments. She recently received a hip transplant/surgery through the VA. As previously stated, she lives with a roommate who is incapable of providing my mother with proper medical care. She needs in-home medical rehabilitation, as is normal after a major surgery. The VA has not provided her with in home care but scheduled her physical therapy through another VA facility. She was notified that her physical therapy would be canceled as she wasn’t cleared for it due to lack of post-surgery rehabilitation, which she was not provided with in the first place. This is just one instance of a situation where I feel my mother would benefit from my assistance. While I cannot assist my mother physically as we are states away from each other, it would benefit her if I could at least speak to her medical caregivers on her behalf. Does POA grant this ability, or another legal process? (Bentleyville, PA)

A: If your mother is competent, she can sign a General Durable Power of Attorney to you as well as a Medical Power of Attorney. If she is not competent to sign, or if the circumstances warrant it, you could petition the court to be her Guardian, which is much more involved than a POA. I would consult with an attorney in her area in Michigan.

Will a Financial Durable Power of Attorney cover my incapacitation?

Q: I have crafted my accounts, etc., to be transferred to my children, equally, upon my death. In the event I am incapacitated before I die, is a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Advance Directives enough to give my children access to my accounts without having to create separate accounts with their signing authority already on them, and authority to manage my care? (McMurray, PA)

A:  Yes, a legal General Durable Power of Attorney should empower an agent to do the things that the principal wants the agent to do. However, it is better if these things, which are called, “powers”, are listed as specifically as possible in the document so that the agent’s authority to exercise such powers are not questioned. My suggestion is to consult with an attorney in drafting a POA so that it will be customized to accomplish what you want it to. As mentioned, a POA is a very powerful document and if misused, can lead to problems with taxes and Medicaid, to mention a few. As to an Advanced Directive, that is a medical document that comes into effect at the end-stage of life. It should have nothing to do with your finances.

Who has final say in healthcare decisions, a spouse or an attorney in fact?

Q: My 95-year-old stepmother is facing decisions about rehab options. My father, married to her for 27 years feels he should be the one to make decisions for his wife (she has dementia and Alzheimer’ disease). Her daughter feels that she should since she has durable POA. (Wilkins, Twp.)

A: It depends if the power of attorney contains a health care power of attorney. Generally, a general durable POA with no other title, authorizes an agent to handle financial matters. You will need to examine the POA. If it is not a health care POA, then the husband will likely be considered next of kin by the hospital and to whom they look with regard to medical and health care decision making.

Brother with DPOA will not tell me where my Mother is.

Q: Brother and Mother live in Allegheny County, and I am in Wheeling. Mother signed a General Durable Power of Attorney over to my brother. Mother was in an Independent Living Facility, but after a fall, was admitted to in-patient rehab facility. She is no longer there and brother will not tell me where she is. He said she does not want to see me, which is untrue. I discovered his daughter has been added to the title on my mother’s house, for the consideration sum of $10. I believe she is being exploited and coerced. We requested a welfare check, but with being out of state, Pittsburgh PD required contact from our local police, and a missing persons report was filed. Unfortunately, my brother was there when the police arrived and my Mother could not speak freely. How can I find out where she is?

A: If you believe mother is being financially exploited by your brother and niece, as a first step, you can call the county Department of Aging and see if they will do a wellness visit to assess the situation.  If you truly believe you are better suited as a caretaker of your mother, you can hire an Allegheny County attorney to file for a Guardianship, which will result in the court making a determination as to who, between you and your brother, would be your mother’s guardian. However, if the Department of Aging cannot help the situation, the Guardianship may be your only option as you will probably keep running into roadblocks with your brother.  I would also consult with an Allegheny County attorney.

Financial Power of Attorney issue. Did the law change?

Q: Long story short, my father has been in and out of a hospital for the last 2 years with complications arising from a benign tumor. Because of his medical setbacks, and in trying to conserve his money, I was able to find POA papers for PA online in order to handle his financial matters. We signed them in front of a notary, and I thought that was the end of it. However, when providing a copy of the POA to the bank to gain access to his accounts, I was informed that the form that we filled out was an old form, and since PA changed their POA laws at the beginning of 2015, was no longer valid. I would need to have a new 1st and last page signed by him and I that include the new 2015 legalese, and resubmit. The issue now, however, is that he has taken a somewhat turn for the worse, and is suffering from delirium. Because of this, I can’t have him sign anything knowing he doesn’t understand or comprehend what he is signing. Do I have any recourse to getting this rectified in his current condition without having to go through the courts to request guardianship/conservatorship privileges?

A: There is an inherit danger with pulling legal documents off the internet. PA House Bill 1429 was signed by the governor on July 2014 and made sweeping pages to Title 20 Sections 5601 through 5620, the law which governs Powers of Attorney in PA. The changes were effective on January 1, 2015. The changes not only affected the Notice requirements, but the Acknowledgement language and much more. I am sorry to say that if your father is not competent to sign a new POA, and the bank will not accept your current POA, you are out of luck. Your only option will be to seek a guardianship over your father. You should see an attorney immediately to review your options, which will likely be to file for guardianship. Unless of course, if your father rebounds, his signature can be taken, or, if he would unfortunately die, then the need for either would not be necessary.


How do I help paralyzed senior in another state?

Q: His children are mistreating him. They have power of attorney. He lives with his daughter and her husband. They will not allow him to have company. After his nurse leaves, no one comes to check on him. He has a decent income. He just wants to live in assisted living, be around other people. They don’t take him out and he doesn’t eat with them. His grandchildren lives there and he hardly ever see them. He has no quality of life. His nurse is only company he has. He is in wheelchair, but it is just cruel the way they treat him.

A: This is a difficult situation. You could try to talk to the family if you haven’t done so. You could contact the local Department of Aging to see if they will do a wellness visit. Perhaps have him express his feelings of wanting to leave to the department of aging people in writing if he is not comfortable doing it in front of his present caretakers. Maybe, but doubtful, the local police department has an officer who deals strictly with domestic situations or with crime against the elderly. If such officer exists, you could see if he will visit your friend and talk with the family then talk to the friend in private. He could also sign a POA in favor of you if he agrees to do so and if you can somehow get it done with a lawyer going into the home. It seems that if this friend of yours really wants to leave, if he expresses his feelings, it can be done. The other option is to file for a guardianship over him which you really need to have legal advice before doing so. If you are not family, the court will favor family unless the family members are suitable.

How do I keep a young girl away from taking advantage of my 87 year old father?

Q: While in a rehabilitation hospital, my father was getting taken care of by a young 29 something girl. After he left there, she managed to get his address and phone number. She has been to the house and calls him every day. This has been going on for seven months now. My mother has passed away so we moved my father to an assisted living facility 4 hours away from this girl. He is telling my sister and I that he loves her and is in love. She has got him convinced that he needs to go back to his house. There is money and property missing from the house and he keeps telling us that she is his friend. We are just so afraid that she is taking advantage of him but we don’t know what to do. He cannot live in the house alone. Any advice or direction would be go greatly appreciated

A: If he is mentally clear, there is little you can do except this. If you are sure money is missing, you can see if a police officer will take a report and at least talk to this girl. Not all police departments will do this, but some will. This may shake her up a bit. Dad should have a Power of Attorney at this point in his life so you need to talk to him and see if you can get him to a local attorney in order to address this. If you or someone in the family can serve as his Agent on a POA, you can file the POA with all the financial institutions where he has money on deposit and inform them to notify the Agent if any large or suspicious withdrawals are attempted. If your father is not clear headed and you cannot get him to sign a POA, then your only option besides letting this girl know she is being watched and hoping she will get the message and go away is to file for a Guardianship of your father in court. This is somewhat expensive and requires the assistance of a lawyer. I would sit down with a lawyer and discuss all of the facts before you decide what to do.

How do we get the hospital to follow dad’s request and consult with us?

Q: Dad had two leg surgeries in the last 5 days. He signed a living will and Durable Power of a Attorney. I am his health care agent. He is on pain meds and little sleep. He does not remember what doctors are telling him. He thinks he is being given pills to medicate himself, which he is not. He thinks he is signing paperwork when they have not given him any. He is clearly confused and cannot make clear decisions for himself. He requested that the hospital call me every time they discuss his treatment. Surgeons are talking to him at midnight and not calling me. They are pushing him to leg amputation. How do we get hospital to follow Dad’s request to have me present for each consultation? We both feel his rights are being violated.

A: Relationships between hospital employees and family members of patients can be stressful, for both sides. However, you have to let them know your concerns, but do it in a professional and tactful way and be persistent. Send the administrator a letter along with a copy of the POA. Clearly state what you want in the letter. You can also request a sit down with the administrator. Let your requests be known. Maybe you are telling staff and the message isn’t getting up to the top. If this does not work, have your lawyer write a letter. However, try everything you can on your own as a concern for a loved one, at first. If he has a personal doctor or PCP that knows his history, can you have him or her communicate with the hospital doctors?