How Do I Get Power of Attorney for a Parent With Dementia?

Woman smiling with her elderly mother who has dementia

Navigating the complexities of Power of Attorney (POA) for a parent with dementia is a deeply personal and challenging process. As you seek to ensure the best care and protection for your loved one, knowing the steps to legally manage their affairs is crucial. This task, while sometimes daunting, can also represent a significant act of love and responsibility, one that safeguards their well-being and honors their dignity.

Understanding Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that grants an individual the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person, typically a parent or loved one. In the context of dementia, POA becomes particularly vital. It allows you to manage the affairs of your parent when they are no longer able to do so themselves due to the progression of the disease. It’s important to understand that POA does not strip a person of all their decision-making powers; instead, it provides a legal framework for support and guidance when their ability to make informed decisions diminishes. Setting up POA is a proactive step in ensuring that your parent’s wishes and best interests are respected and upheld as their condition evolves.

When to Consider Getting Power of Attorney

Deciding when to obtain Power of Attorney for a parent with dementia is crucial. Ideally, this should be done while your parent can still participate in the decision-making process. As dementia progresses, the ability to make informed and legally recognized decisions can diminish, making early action advantageous. It’s not just about legal preparedness; it’s also about respecting your parent’s wishes and ensuring their voice is heard in decisions that affect their life. Waiting too long might result in a situation where your parent is no longer legally capable of granting POA, complicating matters significantly. Therefore, initiating conversations and taking steps towards POA as early as possible is a practical and compassionate approach to safeguarding your parent’s future well-being.

Legal Requirements in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, specific legal requirements must be met for a Power of Attorney to be valid. First, the person granting the POA, known as the principal, must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent at the time of signing. This means they should understand the implications of the POA document and the authority they are granting. If your parent has dementia, timing is key. It is important to discuss the POA with them and execute it as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis to ensure that they are still competent to sign one.

The POA must be in writing and should clearly specify what powers are being given. It needs to be signed by the principal and notarized to ensure its validity and to conform with state laws. Massachusetts recognizes a “Durable Power of Attorney,” which remains effective even if the principal becomes incapacitated. If you’re setting up a Durable POA, it must explicitly state that the principal’s powers continue despite their incapacity. Understanding and adhering to these requirements is vital to ensure that the POA is legally binding and effective in managing your parent’s affairs.

The Process of Obtaining Power of Attorney

  • Consult an Attorney: Begin by consulting with an attorney experienced in elder law to understand the specifics of POA in Massachusetts and ensure all legal criteria are met.
  • Discuss with Your Parent: Have a clear and compassionate conversation with your parent about the necessity and implications of granting POA.
  • Medical Evaluation: If there is a potential question concerning your parent’s mental capacity, consider having them evaluated by a medical professional to ensure that they are competent to execute a POA.
  • Draft the POA Document: Work with your attorney to draft a POA document that clearly outlines the powers being granted and any limitations.
  • Review and Sign: Ensure your parent reviews the document thoroughly and signs it in the presence of a notary public.
  • Notify Relevant Parties: Inform family members and relevant institutions (like banks or healthcare providers) about the POA to ensure smooth future interactions.
  • Regular Review and Updates: Periodically review the POA document and make necessary updates to reflect any changes in your parent’s situation or wishes.

Challenges and Considerations

Obtaining Power of Attorney for a parent with dementia presents several challenges. One major issue is the emotional difficulty in acknowledging a parent’s declining capacity, which can be distressing for both the parent and family members. It’s important to approach this sensitively, balancing legal necessities with compassion. Another consideration is the potential for family disagreements over who should hold POA or how it should be exercised. Clear, open communication can help mitigate conflicts. Additionally, ensuring the parent’s wishes are accurately represented and respected in the POA document is vital. It’s also important to prepare for the possibility of your parent’s condition worsening, necessitating more comprehensive decision-making on your part. 

How We Can Help

At Surprenant & Beneski, we offer helpful guidance in establishing Power of Attorney. Our experienced attorneys provide personalized legal advice, helping you navigate the complexities of POA with understanding and care, tailored to your unique family situation and your parent’s specific needs. Contact us today.