Do we have to confer with our parents when making health decisions for our grandparents?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 23, 2009
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can grandchildren take over the care of grandparents with health issues without the consent of the children of the parents? How would the children of the family stop this from happening?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It’s possible for grandchildren to take over caring for their grandparents, but easiest and best if they secure legal authority to do it.

And this is especially true if a close relative, such as their own children, are likely to contest the arrangement. If there is no legal document specifying that the grandchildren have this authority, then for practical purposes—by custom and sometimes by legal right—doctors, bank authorities and others will look to an older person’s children for help with decisions about healthcare and finances if needed.

If the grandparents prefer that their grandchildren have this sort of authority and are mentally competent to grant it to them, they should consider completing two documents: a durable power of attorney for healthcare (giving one or more of the grandchildren authority to make medical decisions) and a durable power for finances (giving them authority to manage and control their finances).

If the grandparents require care, but lack the mental capacity to complete the documents directing who should provide it, the matter becomes a bit more complicated. In such cases, the best route may be for the grandchildren to secure a conservatorship, also called an adult guardianship in some places, that would allow them to manage the grandparents’ care and property if they were not able to do it for themselves.

Courts considering such an arrangement, however, would require that the grandparents’ children first be notified that it was being sought—and they would have the legal right to come to court to object to it. A judge would then have to use discretion in deciding which individuals are most likely to act in the grandparents’ best interests.