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An attorney drew up a P.O.A. (naming me) several years ago for Mom. She is becoming confused, saying and doing unusual, and occasionally somewhat dangerous things. She lives with me. Can I just begin the duties of her POA, or do I have to have her declared incompetent to begin making decisions for her?

You need to read the POA document and see when it gives you the powers. Your mom could have given you powers to act on her behalf once she signed the document and it was notarized or she could have given you powers for a specific time period or she could have given you powers once a doctor put in writing she no longer had capacity to make her own decisions. You will also want to review the document to see exactly what powers she does and does not give you. The take-away is that POA documents are not all alike.
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Reply to Ombudsman1
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So POA and DPOA are two different things, in some states (like my mom's) they are linked so a POA becomes durable (DPOA) when criteria is met and other states the choice is made (usually suggested by attorney probably) to write it as a combined or do both. But the point is with POA you are able to do everything your mother is on her behalf when it comes this stuff so yes you can just make those adjustment's, however if your mother doesn't agree with the steps you are making or can't be brought around to see the reasoning, you can't go against her wishes. You really should be consulting with her or at least telling her what you have done on her behalf. If and when the time comes that she is insisting on things that really are harmful or simply can't be consulted anymore and a doctor agrees she can't make decisions for herself and or the parameters are met for the D (durable) to kick in you can then start doing things she doesn't want that you feel are in her best interest.

For now since you are her POA and it sounds like she is still somewhat self sufficient just not capable of always sticking up for herself and needs some guidance I would approach it the way we have with my mom. We consulted her on everything at first, well informed her of our plan to get her blessing and very quickly she lost the need to be informed on "everything". My brother takes care of her banking and bill paying, she has access to one account with her Debit/credit card and he keeps a minimum in there so he can keep an eye on the spending. We have all of her mail now going to his house so she only really get's the stuff we give her. Now there is some mail that get's through, some junk mail but not enough to be a problem. She uses her cell phone rather than the house phone now and we have it set so that the only calls that ring through are the ones from us, her sister and her brother, all the rest go through to voice mail and she has given up trying to get messages. We review the calls and messages to see if anything is important but we have all the import calls, doctors offices etc coming to us rather than her anyway and she likes it that way. I say this only for ideas but as long as you do it in a not threatening and more helpful way your mom will likely adapt and maybe even be relieved to let you run things. There are bound to be things she digs her heels in about even though you don't agree, with mom it was setting up her pills for one...and you have to be willing to say ok and let them make their mistakes, pick your battles so to speak and try hard not to let it become a battle. Easier said than done to be sure but know you are doing such a service and such a loving, caring thing for mom and she knows it too. Just do all you can to give her the feeling of control, at least in my experience it's when they feel out of control that things start to go sideways. Control is happily turning responsibility over remember and that happens easier when they trust you will keep them in the loop when they should be or anytime they ask. Understandable, they are adults and they are our elders/parents, deserving of being respected as such. IMHO
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Reply to Lymie61
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Hi Vali,
I'm relatively new on here, but your question resonated with me greatly, so I thought I'd share my "two cents".
As far as I know she would need to be mentally evaluated and deemed mentally incapacitated or of "not sound mind" in order for you to begin the duties of POA.
That's how it was for ME in my situations anyway with my Mother (Multiple Sclerosis), and very recently my 98 year old Grandmother who just passed.
In theory, it's a relatively simple evaluation performed by a Neuropathologist. The difficult part would be getting her consent for the evaluation without her already being in the hospital (meaning...say...she had to go to Urgent Care or the ER for a fall or any other health risk that had potentially been caused by her confusion). Does that make sense? You cannot legally force someone to have the evaluation performed regardless of whether or not your status on their will is POA.
My sister and I were both POA for our Grandmother, and we constantly worried about her and her living situation. We KNEW that she wasn't ok, and had a hunch that she had dementia and alzheimers. However, we could not make her take the diagnostic test, therefore could not assume positions of POA. However, she inevitably ended up in the emergency room for dizziness, confusion, and pain. She was THEN evaluated by a Neuropathologist because it was relevant to her reasons for being there. She was indeed diagnosed with dementia and alzheimers. But there were still hoops. After the diagnoses you THEN have to acquire the official letter from the evaluation, have it notorized, and present it to all necessary parties along with a copy of her will (or another legal document) that names you power of attorney.
We never had the chance to seek advice from an Elder Care Attorney, but after all of my recent experiences I think it might be a good idea if you're financially able to. It would probably save you a great deal of grief, and a massive headache.
I'm not a medical professional or a lawyer, blah blah. Just a regular ol' laman that has recently had to do this twice, and has had to deal with ALLL of the social workers, lawyers, medical and legal jargon.
It's painfully confusing and difficult, and I truly wish you and your mother the very best of luck (I mean that).
Best,
Hannah
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Reply to Hamsterjane
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Vali53, I read your response to Isthisreallyreal, and it concerns me that at some point, Mom could get herself in some real trouble. Society is rife with scammers and other unscrupulous riffraff nowadays. If Mom’s computer usage, phone calls and mail are not carefully watched over until the deed is already done and you find out about it, it could wind up costing her thousands. You know these scammers and their like are very well versed in making it so that they’ve covered their behinds and it makes getting out of contracts and promises extremely difficult. Take this new app that has no purpose other than showing people what they might possibly look like when they’re old. How many have realized there’s a monthly subscription fee and cancelled it? Real fun until your credit card starts getting billed some ridiculous fee every month and getting out of it is just about impossible. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see “old age”.

Time to have an adult to adult talk with Mom. Don’t fear her wrath. Be honest and tell her that the way things are nowadays, even young people are taken advantage of and swindled out of lots of money. Reassure her that you’re not saying she’s not smart and/or savvy because, of course, she is, but you don’t want to see her taken advantage of.

Since you are on her account, ask the bank for a copy of the statement. I know you said you uninstalled those apps, but make sure that took care of any charges. Deleting or uninstalling an app doesn’t always cancel the account, she could continue to be charged. Get her a debit card through the bank instead of a credit card. There is no interest on a debit card as there is on a credit card. If she tries to use it and there is no money in her account, it will be declined. If the bank she uses has an app, download it. You can check transactions and balances that way.

You will have to put on your “big girl pants”and tell Mom you’re going to work together on her record keeping. Will she be irate? Oh, yes. But you stated that she does things that are “somewhat dangerous”. To me, that’s like being “a little bit pregnant”. She could at some point make a misstep that could wipe her out. That prospect in itself is worth facing her anger.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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vali53 Jul 20, 2019
Thanks to you and all the others who replied, so appreciate it all! Will sit down and really read the poa, and just take it a day at a time! She is in a really much better mood today...maybe I'll be able to broach a topic or 2 today!

Thank You ALL!
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Vali,
Check what kind of poa you have. I had a durable poa set up when my mom first starting showing signs of Alzheimer’s. Very important; some states may honor regular poa as durable, but others may not. Regular poa sometimes ends when they become incompetent. Durable means it is effective for everything even after incompetency.
I still had to fill out healthcare proxy at doctor, but they kept a copy of my poa on file and was no problem. Had all my moms mail forwarded to my house. Her bank account she already had it as a revocable trust so I could not use the durable poa there unless closing and reopening whole thing. Easiest thing was just had her go in with me and put me on as a joint account owner. So much easier and do all her bill paying online as well and autopay. That way I didn’t have to go through hoops with moving her ss payments. Just keep receipts. To change addresses and for credit cards was easier to just say I was her on phone, otherwise just a bit more time consuming to send poa forms all over the country and jump through hoops.
There is a form for designated payee or something for ss; I just didn’t do it. Good luck and many hugs..🌷🌷
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Judysai422 Jul 23, 2019
Our attorney said NEVER be joint on accounts. If one 9f you gets sued, the other can be held liable and their mo ey can be tapped. Get on bank accounts as POA.
The other thi got know about POA is whether ir is a springing POA, which means there are conditions to be able to activate, such as incompetence. For my parents, our attorney made my DPOA active e at any time, no conditions. She said to my dad, it your are not comfortable with your POA having authority now, you picked the wrong POA.
I can help my dad do anything. I also have a debit card for his bank account so I can shop for him.
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Please read it. It should have language that says that change in mental incapacity will not alter it, or some such language. I forget how the language is put in mine, but was done when my brother assigned me knowing what he was doing, and states that when he does not know, the poa is not altered by that fact. It may be worth a call to his office to say that you are now going to begin to "assume your duty to manage her finances for her due to her failing death" and is there anything you should know. You may just want to take it into her bank and tell THEM that you are assuming your duty as her POA due to her failing health, and ask them how to proceed. They will let you know if there is any problem with it at all. I would echo the keep excellent records in a separate file, make copies of all checks paid, be meticulous and tell yourself that you will have to appear in court tomorrow to defend your payments; how will you do so. That will spur you on. You are acting FOR her and in her stead and in her interest. Do not make payments for anything she would not have. Do not muddy, intermingle funds.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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I am in Texas and am agent under a statutory durable power of attorney for all of my dad’s affairs. The form includes allowing the POA to be named as the agent for specific areas from a list of powers (property, banking, estates and trusts, etc.) or to be given power in all areas. This form was signed by my dad and he understood what he was signing. The granting of these powers did NOT require a certification of incompetence by a physician. However, if there are other family members likely to be involved, I would be concerned that someone might question a POA and your actions if they feel that your mon did not know what powers she was signing away. Also, be aware that the POA powers end immediately upon death of the grantor; estate law takes over then, so you might want to put plans in place such as being a joint user on her bank accounts. Another thing I have found is that I could initially talk to just about any of my dad’s entities such as brokerage, insurance, etc. IF he was right there to give verbal permission; however, now that he has been living in facilities and hospitalized for a year, I have needed to send that POA to almost all of those entities. Some even have their own form for him to sign. One other thing (and I have not yet pursued this)I am told that you must go in person to the Social Security office, with or without your mother, in order to affect any interaction with her Social Security. I haven’t done anything about this because there’s no need for changes to be made to my dad’s Social Security.

A medical power of attorney is a different power, but something that you should look into. In the case of the medical power of attorney, the documents I have seen state that the powers to make medical decisions are granted “if I become unable to make my own healthcare decisions and this fact is certified in writing by my physician.” However, my daughter, who is a nurse, and I, with no medical training, have had absolutely no trouble giving a cooy of this document and then interacting with medical personnel to make basic care decisions and exchange information. In the event of more critical decisions, he also has an Advance Directive to physicians and hospitals of his treatment options, as well as an Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order for non-hospital personnel and situations.

Also, be sure to get a signed HIPAA release authority designating that her medical information, written records, and billing info can be released to you and whoever else is named.

Best of luck to you. It’s all a bit to take on at first, but, once in place, will save you a great deal of angst and time.
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LexiPexi Jul 23, 2019
Excellent, well written response. Thank you.
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My brother has his dad's and step-mothers POA's, both financial & medical. His name was added to their checking account and savings, he is handling everything for them, paying all their bills and so on. They are not declared incompetent. Keep good records, only spend her money on her, you will be fine.
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No, you do not. I have durable POA & healthcare (living will) POA. My Mom goes to a senior center, I’ve applied for Medicaid for her for LTC placement & an assessment for it & In every instance, they have asked if I was POA to sign for her & asked for a copy of it. When she is placed in LTC, it will be the same, POA signs for her. My Mom is not incapacitated & doesnt have a dementia dx.
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Last comment regarding "She is in a really much better mood today...maybe I'll be able to broach a topic or 2 today!" - again, this is common with dementia (and other conditions, best to get checked!), but yes, one day you can be a goddess, then next a demon! Try not to get angry, certainly don't chastise or try to contradict her, that will only lead to frustration for both of you and possible arguments. Distract and redirect her focus to something else, if possible.
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