Dementia is a common problem that affects primarily the elderly population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 5.8 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementia diseases. Of that number, the vast majority are over the age of 65. If you have an elderly parent with dementia, you know how difficult and complex the situation can become. As the disease progresses, you may need to take over the financial and health decisions of your elderly loved one.
What is the Power of Attorney?
When a loved one is not able to make decisions on their own due to incapacitation, they can designate someone to take over. A power of attorney (POA), provides legal authorization to a designated person, called an agent, to act on behalf of someone else. A durable power of attorney may remain in place when a person becomes disabled or has a temporary or permanent illness and is unable to sign legal documents. There are several types of power of attorney including general, temporary, limited, and durable. It is important to note that the person chosen to have power of attorney does not need to be an actual lawyer. You may appoint a relative or trusted friend as your power of attorney agent.
Responsibilities of the Power of Attorney Agent
Power of attorney is governed by the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. Wisconsin Statute 244.14 lists the agent’s duties. These include:
- Follow the person’s reasonable expectations
- Act in the interest of the person
- Act within the scope of authority granted in the POA
The law recognizes that there could be a potential conflict of interest because most designated agents are relatives. However, the agent must always primarily do what is in the best interest of the principal. If a question arises, the law may provide some answers as to how to best proceed. An experienced attorney will assist you through the process.
How to Get POA for Your Parent with Dementia
Gaining power of attorney is easier to accomplish before your parent becomes incapacitated or disabled. Your parent may grant power of attorney with help from a qualified lawyer. If your parent is already in the later stages of dementia, he or she is not able to provide POA through conventional methods. Once a person is no longer capable of making his or her own decisions due to dementia or any other reason, you will need to go through the courts to obtain power of attorney. You must first have a doctor examine your parent and make a diagnosis of the level of cognition. In addition to providing a report, the doctor may have to provide testimony in court. The process of obtaining power of attorney for someone who is already unable to make these types of decisions can be complex. Therefore, it is always best to address the matter as soon as possible, when your parent is still capable of legal authorization.
Power of attorney can be a complicated process when your parent is already in the later stages of dementia. To find out more about power of attorney for your elderly parent, contact us online or call (608) 784-8310 for an initial consultation.