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A Basic Guide to Getting Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents

Friendly girl explaining some documentation to parent

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


November 2, 2020

It can be scary how quickly time changes things. At one point in your life, your parents were helping you make big decisions. They taught you to drive, helped you when you were sick, and taught you how to handle money.

Now as they age, the tables have turned. You are finding yourself in a position where you need to help your parents with some of the same decisions they once guided you on. 

Do you need to get a power of attorney (POA) for an elderly parent? Are you starting to see signs that your aging parents need more help and support? Are you wondering how to get power of attorney for a parent with dementia?

If you feel like it might be time to protect your parents and make sure you have the legal right to make decisions on their behalf, read on to learn all about becoming a power of attorney for elderly parents.


What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney gives one person the legal power to make decisions on behalf of another person. Depending on the type of power of attorney, those decisions might be legal, financial, or medical.

As parents age and need more help, many children opt to get a power of attorney for aging parents to help them in making decisions. If you are granted the power of attorney from a parent, then you are considered the agent. The parent granting the power of attorney is considered the principal. It can be hard to know what to do when an elderly parent is mentally incompetent, but a power of attorney can help make the situation easier to navigate.

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What Rights Does the Principal Have With a Power of Attorney for Older Parents?

When a parent agrees to grant a power of attorney, they can also make decisions about what kind of authority they want to grant. In essence, the power of attorney can be granted the right and task of making decisions for elderly parents. 

The agent acting as power of attorney can make financial decisions. They can sign checks and move money around as needed, for example. It’s important to make sure the bank your parents work with will recognize your power of attorney paperwork. While they should if it’s done correctly, many banks have their own power of attorney paperwork.

The agent can also make medical decisions on behalf of the principal. This would include signing for treatments and deciding when to grant treatment and when not to.

They can also make general welfare decisions on behalf of the parent. 


Types of Power of Attorney

As you consider getting a power of attorney paperwork drawn up, you might also consider the type that will work best for you. Many parents are reluctant to give up the autonomy they have as adults. It might not be that they don’t trust their kids. It is more that knowing someone else is making decisions for them can be hard. 

There are several different types of power of attorney to consider based on your individual needs. It’s important to not wait too long to complete this process. You need your parent to be signing this paperwork when they are of a good mind if possible. 


General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney is the most basic type of elder care power of attorney. It covers a variety of options and gives the agent authority to make decisions in a variety of scenarios. These might include:

  • Signing documents for the principal
  • Handling banking matters like opening and closing accounts or making withdrawals of money
  • Asset management
  • Handling real estate in the name of the principal
  • Paying bills
  • Managing commitments

Many will refer to this type of power of attorney as a financial POA since much of what the agent will do involves making financial decisions.


Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney gives the agent the authority to make all medical decisions on behalf of the principal. This might include things like:

  • Medical therapy
  • Surgery release
  • Medical treatments
  • Whether to put in or remove feeding tubes
  • Health care selection including senior living choices
  • Organ donation

This is another important time to make sure your parent has granted you this type of authority before they are considered incapable of making this decision in their right mind. 


Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows the agent to make all types of decisions on behalf of the parent. This is often the most comprehensive option to choose when getting this paperwork arranged. It allows you, as the agent, to make all decisions on behalf of your parent no matter their condition or state of mind. 


Limited Power of Attorney

A limited power of attorney grants the agent POA authority for either limited decision making or for a limited period of time. This is not always the best choice for an aging parent as you would need to keep doing the paperwork again and again as it expires. 

You might, however, get a limited power of attorney, if your parent wanted you to handle something specific on their behalf. 


Springing Power of Attorney

A springing power of attorney is sometimes a good option for the parent who is reluctant to sign the immediate POA paperwork, saying they want to retain their autonomy.

In the case of a springing POA, the agent doesn’t retain the power to make any decisions until the principal is declared incompetent. Only then can a springing power of attorney go into effect. 


The Process of Getting a Power of Attorney for Seniors

The sooner you can go through the process to get a power of attorney with an elderly parent, the better. It is best if they still have their faculties as the process is smoother and doesn’t need to involve the courts. Having an elderly parent declared incompetent is something you’ll want to avoid having to do for everyone’s sake.

First, talk with your parent. Explain a power of attorney and how it will help you provide care for them. Write out the power of attorney. It’s best if you have an attorney do this step or find a free form online. Make sure the parties involved in the POA are clearly identified. 

If it is important to your parents, you can identify specifics for what authority it gives you. You will want the paperwork witnessed, too. 


Understanding the Process to Get Power of Attorney From an Elderly Parent

Now that you understand how to get power of attorney from an elderly parent, it’s important to do it sooner, rather than later. You don’t want to wait too long and risk your parent not understanding. 

Whether you’re a senior in need of a helping hand or wondering how to get help caring for an elderly parent, read more about our at home care services or call our Care Team today at 434.202.8565.

In-home elder care solutions in Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, VA and Charleston, SC.

Contact us for a free assessment