end of life procedure for a sibling who has power of attorned

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 19, 2016
Texas lady asked...

My 64 yr. old sister is in a home for Alzheimers patients and hospice has been called in. Another sister has been given power of attorney in case death occurs before the 64 y.o.'s husband returns from a trip. What are the immediate issues needed to be dealt with if this does happen. Her body would be in the home and where do we go from there. Do the police need to be called, a hospital or the funeral home, etc.

Please help us clear this up so we can be prepared. It seem imminent. Thank you.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com 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.

First to clarify: The power of attorney will be of no use once the sister now receiving hospice care dies. Powers of attorney are intended to allow an individual to handle finances and other personal matters for another if he or she becomes unable to do it. Any powers granted in a power of attorney end at death, so while useful in many matters, they have no effect when making final arrangements after a death occurs.

As for the practical end of life issues, you and your siblings might be surprised to learn that there are likely to be few decisions you will need to make. And you will also have the help of personnel at the nursing facility and of the hospice workers, who are likely to have faced the issues you do many times before.

When your sister was admitted to the facility, it is likely that someone, perhaps her husband, signed on as a "responsible party," or something with a similar name. So the facility will likely look to that person for directions on final arrangements, such as burial or cremation or whether a funeral home will be involved. If not, it would be a good idea for your sister's husband, and possibly you and your siblings to talk about and try to agree on final arrangements that your sister would want and that seem fitting.

Unless there is some notion that a crime has occurred, it is very unusual to have the police called in at a death. And unless there is some final health matter that would seem to merit hospitalization rather than hospice care at the facility, it is unlikely that hospital would be involved. This is one area in which a power of attorney might be helpful. If your sister would not want to be taken to a hospital for "life-saving measures," for example, an agent designated in a power of attorney can usually stop this from happening.

Your best guidance might be to directly ask the executive director of the facility and your sister's hospice workers what procedures they typically follow in case of death. That way, your sister's husband and the remaining siblings can be prepared for the steps to come"”and ward off any that you don't want to occur.

And the best preparation you can do is to prepare yourselves mentally for your sister's death"”and spend whatever time you can giving her comfort if that is possible.