How do I gain power of attorney?

Strallbrry asked...

My mother is so terrified of going to a nursing home that she refuses to sign any type of papers for me to be able to help her, as well as refusing to go to her doctor, so as to prevent him from evaluating her. After the last visit ,she told me she didn't make the appointment, that the doctor had called her, and all he did was ask questions about her mental state. Then she accused my sister of "being in cahoots" with the doctor. She accused me, also, to my brother who is now out of the picture. What do I have to do to gain power of attorney?

Expert Answer

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.

A power of attorney won't likely help you out of your particular thicket. Securing one would require your mother to do exactly what she seems to be dreading most: signing papers authorizing another person to make medical decisions for her.

Your first hard order of business is to sit down with your mother and attempt an honest talk about what has her frightened. Is it loss of control? Fear of moving away from home? The reality of mortality? That may help you better zero in on what specific needs should be addressed -- essential before you can know what legal or practical options may be available.

One note that keeps sounding throughout your question is that several outsiders are concerned about your mother's health and well-being: her doctors and your siblings. If she is truly unable to take care of herself, you may have no choice but to proceed with the fairly drastic option of securing a legal guardianship or conservatorship in which another person is authorized to care for her. Unlike a power of attorney, the person in need of care in such arrangements is deemed incapable to giving legal assent -- so they need not agree to the arrangement in advance.