Durable Medical Power Of Attorney Backwards R Us
I just participated in a quick elder care chat on Twitter. The question came up about who determines when it’s time for your medical-power-of-attorney to kick in on behalf of your elder. The moderator asked whether it’s typically a doctor, a judge, or an attorney who makes the decision.
I’ve gotta tell you, if I’d waited for an outsider to tell me what I already knew—-which was that Mom needed someone to make decisions for her NOW—-she would have been in a deadly situation with no one to speak for her on occasions too numerous to count.
Isn’t the whole point of the document to appoint someone who will make decisions regarding your care (often on an emergent basis), when you are unable to speak for yourself? How is that interest served if the timing of the “transfer of power” is left up to yet another party?
For a number of years, I went in-and-out of acting as Mom’s power-of-attorney. Typically, when she would overmedicate with Xanax and codeine and other cognition-altering drugs, she would end up falling and breaking bones. Or having a grand mal seizure. Or descending into anxiety attacks so serious that she had to be admitted to a geri-psych unit to get her drug situation better managed.
No one ever questioned my power-of-attorney during those lengthy episodes of injury and relative recovery. I would pull out the papers and be part of the decisions that affected Mom’s care. She was far too out of it at those junctures to make any choices on her own behalf. That went without saying.
But then, after they’d get her medications sorted out and her injuries addressed and send her back to assisted living, she might be more clear headed for a while—-perhaps, some months. That’s when she would resent me if I tried to micro-manage her health affairs, and I knew that she was able to make some good choices for herself again. So I would pull back.
Until the whole cycle started all over again. The drugs, the falls, the seizures, hospitalizations, nursing homes for long periods of therapy, etc.
Eventually, of course, if this cycle repeats too many times, the elderly person becomes incapable of reverting back to their former decision-making self. Mom is now entering her tenth year of long-term care. I wear power-of-attorney documents like a scapular under my blouse. I would not dream of leaving the house without them.
But it can be a slow-but-steady process, when the powers first come into play, if they ever do at all. It can be a give and take, a point of respect and responsibility between you and your parent which is rather like a dance in which you’re careful not to step on toes, but dedicated to fulfilling your role in the partnership.
Whatever you do, don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s time to take up your role as leader in the dance. By then, it truly might be too late to act in your parent’s best interests, and that is the entire intention of the document in the first place.
Carry it with you. Use it well.
Posted by Katy on 02/09/11 at 01:09 PMFallible Comments...
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