Power of Attorney: Empowering you to help your loved one
Follow us, as Elizabeth Murray tells the moving story of her mother’s battle with dementia. In this blog series, Murray explores every part of the experience of caring for someone with dementia, sharing her memories and insights from it all. Her words serve as a great reminder of the many ways dementia affects our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.
Moving my mother into a nursing home was a difficult decision. Executing that decision was even more difficult.
My mother had always been fiercely independent. Even after my father died and she lived alone, she was determined to do everything for herself.
My mother knew that if she were to become mentally incapable, someone else would have to make decisions about her health care, medical treatment and living arrangements. We had discussed the benefits of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and she acknowledged that I was the person she would want to have make those decisions if she couldn’t do so herself. The problem was that she really believed she would always be able to determine her own destiny; that she would always be able to live alone and take care of herself.
Although my husband and I were both lawyers and we knew the consequences of our inaction, neither of us were inclined to push the issue and persuade her to sign the document.
When my mother was diagnosed with dementia, she wasn’t prepared to admit that she needed assistance of any kind and she certainly wasn’t prepared to move out of her house voluntarily.
When my mother was no longer safe living on her own, I didn’t have the authority to move her into a nursing home or to ensure that she received appropriate care. Before I could make any decisions on my mother’s behalf, I had to apply to court and ask to be appointed as her committee. The process was cumbersome and time-consuming. It added to the stress of an already stressful situation.
Contemplating a time when a Power of Attorney for Personal Health Care is required is not easy, but the decision is an important one to make. Don’t make the same mistake I did. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than to need a plan and not have it.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. This person is called your “attorney,” though he or she is not usually a lawyer. Powers of Attorney for Personal Care deal with the following matters:
• The appointment of an attorney and the appointment of an alternate attorney if the first named attorney is unable or unwilling to make a decision or is not readily available to make a decision;
• The types of decisions an attorney is authorized to make regarding your care;
• Medical directives with respect to treatment;
• Provisions for payment of compensation to the attorney for the decision-making; and
• Provisions to protect the attorney from decisions that might be unpopular with some members of a family.
Depending on where in Canada you live, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care may be called a power of attorney, a personal or health directive, or a representation agreement. Sometimes, the same document can deal with personal care issues as well as financial matters. A committee may also be called a guardian.
At the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, you can find many resources to help you prepare for the future at www.alzsuperhero.ca
Retired lawyer and the author of Holding on to Mamie: My Mother, Dementia and Me.
For more information about Elizabeth and her story visit www.holdingontomamie.ca.