Q: Can a daughter who doesn't have durable power of attorney request information from the medical staff at mom's nursing home or hospital?

A: There are two kinds of powers of attorney in general use. The first is known as a "general" power of attorney, and it is used to access bank accounts, sign checks, buy and sell real estate, and so on, in the name of the "principal" (that is, the person signing the power of attorney).

The other kind is a "medical" or "health care" power of attorney, which gives the "agent" (the person named to assist the principal) power to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal and to access medical records.

Thus, in most cases, the general power of attorney will not give the agent access to medical records. However, there are exceptions for family members and caregivers under the federal health care privacy act (HIPAA) that could allow the daughter access to the parent's medical records if disclosing such information is directly relevant to the patient's care or payment of their medical bills.