Can I place my mother-in-law in assisted living care even though she insists she is fine?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father-in-law recently passed away unexpectedly from Cancer- My mother n law is Mid stage Alzheimer's. The last week my father n law was alive, we got finances, etc taken care of, got a durable power of attorney in place for my mother n law for all legal, financial and medical decisions regarding her care- This doc, gives us the right to make any decisions for her, now or at a time when she becomes incompetent- but doesn't state that she cant also sign for her self. She does not want to admit she has any problems, and is really at the stage she needs assisted living care- Can we put her in a home with a durable power of attorney, even though she insists she is fine? Or even with the power of attorney do we still need to have her declared incompetent?

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.

The type of power of attorney you describe is somewhat of an absolutist document: It goes into effect and allows the named agent to make decisions for your mother-in-law

if she is incompetent and not able to make them on her own. Most such documents will also specify how incompetence is determined"”generally, one or two doctors must certify the condition in writing. And if the document is silent on how incompetence is determined, it is a good idea to get a written medical certification if the principal"”here, your mother-in-law"”or anyone else is questioning the situation.

The power of attorney doesn't mention your mother-in-law signing for herself, by the way, because the law views her EITHER as competent"”in which case, the power of attorney is not in effect and she is free to sign any and all documents on her own. Or it sees her as incompetent"”in which case, she is legally not capable of signing contracts and such.

Documents and signatures aside, however, if your mother-in-law is truly bucking the idea of assisted living, you'll want to be as sure as possible that there is no alternative that fits her wishes and budget, such as some types of in-home assistance.

If a facility does seem to be the best alternative, make sure it is one that provides memory and Alzheimer's care"”as you'll want to avoid the possibility of needing to move her again should that become necessary.

Community Answers

Ejbruss answered...

She did sign for herself on the document, with my father n law telling her that she needed to- Im not sure she really knew what the document was actually, just that my father n law told her she should do it- She is in her own home right now, but we can only do home care 8hrs per day, and its obvious she needs constant supervision- We are getting our basemen set up as an apartment and our hope is that she will agree to move in with us- this way she can keep her own stuff, her cats, and we can provide the care and supervision with the home help is not available- But she has said she wont move in with us, bc she sees that as us "babysitting" her and she is independant- She still argues with us daily about needing her keys so she can drive, and to the point where she will calll the dealership to get them to make her keys- Yet sometimes she cant even figure out how to use a phone- but in her moments of clarity she will do it- She really is a danger to her self where she is at, but, she just wont admit that anything is wrong- so if she wont move in with us, really the only other option is assisted living-

She cant pay any bills, do anything like that, we are doing all of that, cant do her own meds, etc and with her accross town, we just cant do it all- (we have 3 very young kids and my husband (her son) works out of state and only home one weekend per month) So realistically- in order to care for her we need one of the two options to happen- I just wondered if worst case, we even have the right to insist she go to assisted living-

Also as history, we have had multiple docs, relatives who stayed with her a bit, the home helpers, all who say she needs constant supervision- But, she just still will not say she has Alzheimers- Its early onset, and it runs in her family, her brother died at 57 from it and her mom also very young-

I have searched the durable power of attorney language and it says nothing about determining competency - its actually worded as if from this day forward, we have full authority, but it never says she CANT sign to- and I keep thinking, if it assumes she is incompetent now, then how would her signature be valid, bc she wouldnt have been of sound mind to sign-

Just so many things to figure out! :(