Mom refuses to give me power of attorney, but how will I pay her bills when the time comes?

Condrye asked...

My mother has just been diagnosed with early dementia. I knew from her actions that something was amiss and I had two in-laws that died from Alzheimers so I am very aware of the stages and the behavior. I have tried to no avail to get my mother to sign a power of attorney for health care and finances but she just refuses to discuss it. In her mind she thinks she will live forever and she says that I am trying to upset her. If her Dr. determines at a later date that she has to be moved to a nursing home how am I going to be able to pay her bills with no POA?

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.

It sounds as if you've done all that's humanly possible to convince your mother to finalize a power of attorney and advance directive, but she maintains her own reasons for refusing. Perhaps the closer look she got at the disease through witnessing your in-laws or others has pushed her deeper into denial.

Since you seem to put faith in her doctor's opinions, perhaps he or she would be willing to help by strongly suggesting the documents are a good idea for her. Many people, especially in the past generation, are more likely to give credence to a suggestion that comes from a doctor than a family member, friend or legal advocate.

And for now, there might be some kinder, gentler ways to shift her current financial set-up. One might be to change her bank accounts into joint ones"”or at least name you as authorize to write checks on her account. While you would still need her permission to do this, the arrangement holds less of a feel of "finality" to many people than a POA might.

You might also be able to convince he to simplify as much as possible "for her own convenience," such as by making automatic deposits to payments she regularly receives"”which can be a godsend for many.

And know that reality sometimes helps sooth this situation. If your real concern is what will happen if your mother moves into a nursing facility, the truth is that there may be few personal bills to pay on her behalf should that happen. The medical care and payments for care and housing at that point are usually handled within the facility"”with overseeing and management by concerned family members.

Should more intense financial and medical management be required for her at that time, it would be possible to get you or some other person appointed as her legal guardian or conservator.