Hope this proves useful. I thought I’d share some personal experiences regarding this topic. It’s not an easy one.

If you are caregiving for someone who may become increasingly dependent on you, start thinking now about looking for an attorney for you and that person. The attorney will not represent you, but the person you’re caring for. It can be especially helpful to find an attorney who specializes in ‘elder law’. They are familiar with most legal issues (estate planning, POA’s, wills, DNR’s etc) concerning senior citizens because it is not just POA’s your loved one should be interested in, but any and all arrangements for what they’ve worked for and care about.

If your loved one is resistant, well, they should be. A lot of people have been burned by not considering the immense legal power they give to their caregiver /spouse / child. One thing they can do to feel safer is to ask for a ‘revocable’ power of attorney. This allows them the freedom of changing who represents them with little problems but at the same time gives you most of the law behind you to act in their best interests as long as your appointed.

Whether you get a revocable or durable power of attorney, make copies of the original and send it to every health care provider they see so they know they are not violating any HIPAA laws when speaking to you. **Note** they may still be resistant and need reminding of your status. If they are still resistant, have the attorney you use draw up a letter from their office specifically citing the paragraph in your POA regarding the release of medical records/info and that failure to do so can result in a medical negligence lawsuit to include damages and attorney’s fees. Believe me, the last thing they want to see is you walking in with the attorney and a subpoena.

I have found in my experience one of the most frustrating and tiresome issues is dealing with medical personnel whatever their role. Conflicting messages, lack of specific information, failing to reveal in entirety your loved ones health situation and what is being done about it is a MAJOR no-no if you are an attorney-in-fact. And that’s what you are when you have been appointed the full power of POA. You are, essentially, your loved ones attorney. No doctor or hospital may refuse your request to look at health charts or request copies of all medical tests and their results. If they do, they are flaunting the law. Period.

Do not be shy if you are the attorney-in-fact about letting anyone involved know that this is so. It stinks on a certain level, but I’ve found without keeping a sharp eye on my father’s care he’s not likely to get the care he’s paying for. The reasons for that are nearly endless.

If your loved one is currently in a hospital or assisted facility, it is up to the attorney to decide if they are mentally fit to sign such power over to you. This is to protect themselves from being taken to task by the state bar as well as your loved one from being exploited on any level. Most states only require 2 witnesses (apart from yourself) but if the attorney is a notary, they can often act is the 2nd witness. So you’d need to get a friend or family member or the attorney will bring someone (and probably charge you for it).

The sad fact is, accidents happen. Issues of negligence are something after the fact. The more immediate issue for your loved one is: “If I need to be protected by an objective party apart from medical personnel, do I have anyone like that? Is there someone who can move me from the hospital to another? What if I can’t tell I’m being abused?”. Your loved one needs to have a caring party available to represent them without the interests of the medical personnel involved and who is not hamstrung because they have no legal power.

I will say that as my father’s attorney-in-fact it doesn’t necessarily make things easier because I am as such his attorney in the eyes of the state. Say that word in a hospital, and listen to the pin drop ha ha! But, if I need to ‘motivate’ the slothful administrative, bureaucratic, and just downright bad communications between themselves, my father, and me, reminding them that I’m not just his daughter but his legal representative can often improve these things very rapidly. Without such accord given to the caregiver, you have very few legal rights. Especially in a hospital situation, you and your loved one should have it.

BTW, in some states the person signing POA papers doesn’t have to put more than an ‘x’ down and I’m not kidding. So make sure the attorney you speak to isn’t 1) suggesting overly high fees for their services and 2) is well versed in these matters.

Lastly, even with everything in place legally that’s not to say that your loved one won’t be victimized because of malpractice or negligence et al. If you see unusual bruises, cuts or anything that in your opinion is ‘suspicious’ take photographs immediately for record purposes. Do not willy-nilly make accusations, ever. Never threaten to ‘sue’ because you’re upset. And if at any point you’re gut tells you that something has happened that could have been avoided had more care been taken, get your attorney’s counsel. They will either recommend you to an experienced trial attorney or tell you to consider other options. No attorney in the event of malpractice will charge you fees if after having researched the case they feel they have an extremely high probability of getting the compensation your loved one deserves. These are not light matters nor easy and very time consuming and expensive so beware the too-willing attorney if you get my drift. You could wind up being sued in reverse.

A Caregiver