Would a medical power of attorney help me get my mother to see the eye doctor?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is 82. She has never had a driver's license, therefore has never had eye exams. She can't see well at all, yet every time I bring up the subject of going to the eye dr. she refuses, yet will not tell me why. I have been thinking of making an appt. for her and just taking her there without telling her where we are going. Of course, she could just refuse an examination. Would a medical power of attorney help in this case? Do you have any better suggestions?

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.

A power of attorney would likely be of little use in this situation, since most go into effect only when a person becomes mentally incompetent, as opposed to merely stubborn. And those that take effect immediately must be agreed to and finalized by the person who makes them"”and it doesn't seem that your mother would be game for that.

It sounds as if you've broached the subject again and again, but it may be worth a try to gently prod your mother about why see has a fear or loathing about an eye doctor appointment. That would help you calm or reassure her best.

You could try the "surprise visit" approach that you describe, but I fear it could lead to some feelings of distrust or anger down the line. Perhaps you could encourage her with the thought that you just need reassurance about her eyesight for your own peace of mind.

If this doesn't work or isn't realistic, it may be a good idea to get a third person to intervene. Choose someone your mother respects or may be swayed by most easily: a friend or neighbor, relative, or even a medical professional.

Many people of your mother's age and stage have a special awe about a trusted doctor, for example. And whether or not your mother has ever driven a block in her life, an eye exam is simply an important evaluator or overall health and quality of life. Most people have one regularly, as they would a dentist appointment"”and do not depend on the yea or nay of the local DMV, most of which conduct cursory exams at best. If your mother has a doctor she knows and trusts, you might persuade him or her to make the suggestion to have the eye exam"”or even make a referral to a colleague.