It’s a difficult conversation—asking an aging parent about setting up a power of attorney agreement in case he or she becomes incapable of making important decisions alone. But it’s a necessary discussion for most families at some point. At Mount Vernon Towers, we have many residents who have set up power of attorney agreements with family members.
So how do you go about it, without upsetting your parent—and still getting decisions made? Here are some ideas.
- Get the conversation started. That’s often the hardest part. Chances are, your parent has already thought about what could happen if someone else needs to make decisions. This doesn’t mean you won’t face resistance (who wants to give up independence). But the practical matters have to be considered. Remember—your mom or dad handled lots of practical decisions for you growing up. Take a deep breath and wade in. (And it’s much better to do it BEFORE your parent has a serious issue.)
- Use someone else’s circumstance as an example. If another relative or one of your parent’s friends has been in the hospital recently, use that as a discussion starter. This takes some of the direct pressure off your parent. Say something like, “Dad, if you were to get sick like ________, how do you think we should handle it?” This can get a serious discussion going.
- Listen more than you talk. This is very important. A life-changing decision like a power of attorney requires adjustment, and the more your parent can express feelings about it, the easier it will be to get to a final resolution. This is another reason for starting the conversation early—adjustments take time.
- Research the documents you need in advance. You’ll need an advanced care directive, or “living will,” which is used to appoint you as a healthcare power of attorney to make medical decisions if your parent can’t.
You also may need financial power of attorney, for paying bills, sorting benefits, accessing accounts, and being able to sell personal property.
And you’ll need a HIPAA Release, which allows medical providers to release information on your parent to you. HIPPA prevents medical professionals from releasing information to unauthorized people. You may want to have HIPPA releases for several family members, including those who don’t have power of attorney.
Discussing the need for a power of attorney isn’t comfortable for anyone, but it’s necessary for many families. And if you approach it practically with your parent, you may find that the process is easier than you may think.
The staff at Mount Vernon Towers can provide you with more information on power of attorney arrangements and how to handle the process.