Can I gain power of attorney for my father to have a say in his health care and placement?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 22, 2016
Jenessa asked...

Can I gain power of attorney for my father to have a say in his healthcare and placement? Currently my aunt (his sister) has power of attorney, and I believe it is for finances and health care. My father is 55 and has been disabled with back problems for 20 years. He was able to work part time and raise my sister and I in a great home. 4 years ago he had a fall and a combination of his medications resulted in him being temporarily mentally unstable (unable to remember names, things like that) and within a month our home was put up for sale by my aunt who had full power to do so in the event he was mentally unstable. My younger sister was placed with our mother a state away and I lost my home. Not long after his home was sold, he regained his mentality and was very upset about the care home he had been placed in. Finally, after two years in care facilities, my aunt helped him rent an apartment. The downfall was he was an hour away from any potential visitors. Now my father has been experiencing seizures, and my aunt cannot care for him at her home, so he is in a nursing home until further notice. Several tests have been ran to determine the cause of the seizures, but he has been negative for everything. I believe he needs treatment methods other than more medication (some of which list seizures as side effects) and the environment he is in (it is not a nice nursing home). I understand that I don't have enough time and energy to deal with his finances while I'm just getting my life together, but my aunt constantly places him hours away from any of his family. He gets very depressed and stressed, and he is completely unmotivated. He has expressed suicidal thoughts "if there isn't change soon". He is not comfortable expressing his feelings to his sister or his doctors. Is there a way I can gain power of attorney to decide what kind of treatment he gets and where he is placed? He has medicare/medicaid, and I understand they have some limitations to where he is placed, but surely there must be locations closer to the city.

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.

If your aunt is the named agent in both powers of attorney for your father and also named his conservator, she also has fairly broad legal powers to manage his care.

If you believe your father is not receiving the best care possible under the arrangement, you have two options. The first is to deal with the situation informally"”appealing to your aunt's sense of family loyalty and personal ties.

Take an honest look at your own situation and assess what help you may be able to provide. It could just be that your aunt is feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated in her role managing your father's care.

Think hard, too, about which wrongs you'd like to right. If you believe your father is receiving substandard care in the nursing home, come up with tangible examples and talk them over with your aunt. If she turns a deaf ear, consider consulting with the facility's ombudsman"”a trained and objective outsider who is charged with solving problems for nursing home residents and their family members. You should be able to find the ombudsman appointed to your father's facility through the national organization at

If you want to search for a facility you believe may provide better care and be in a better location for family member visits, do a search for some through the Senior Directory on the website. The listings should also indicate what type of payment the facility provides"”and your aunt may actually appreciate your help in seeking out alternatives.

If you believe your aunt is truly not acting in your father's best interests, you can go to court and challenge her appointment as his agent and conservator. However, you would likely need to hire a lawyer experienced in elder care issues for help with this.

Community Answers

Jenessa answered...

My aunt also has full conservitorship.