Should my sibling and I have been included in deciding who should be Mom's power of attorney?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has lived with my brother and his wife for about 9 years. This passed week mother has asked me to help her find a place for her to live, she wanted to move from them. My sister-in-law informed me that my brother has power of attorney over mother. My mother is not sick in any way. I was told only he can make decisions for her. Should me and my sibling been included in this power of attorney thing.

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.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to be named as an agent in a power of attorney document"”and many people wrongly believe it gives them the power to be bossy.

First of all, while some powers of attorney are written to take effect immediately, no matter what a person's condition, the vast majority take hold only if and when a person becomes mentally incompetent and unable to make his or her own decisions.

If your mother is mentally competent"”and that's a fairly easy standard to meet"”then it's likely that the power of attorney is not even in effect. And if it is in effect, it allows your brother only to make decisions based on your mother's best interests.

While your mother is free to name any person she wants as her agent, she is also free to change or revoke her power of attorney if she chooses. While this might not be what ultimately legally controls in the situation you describe, it may send a loud symbolic message to your brother and sister-in-law that they lack the right to control your mother's life in a way that isn't working for her.

But all of that still leaves a bit of a mess, as well you know. Your mom is living unhappily for some reason"”and you kids seem to be gearing up for some more unpleasantness down the road.

It may be a good idea to bring in an outsider who could sit down with all of you and help figure out a workable plan. Consider an experienced family mediator to help smooth out the troubles or even a geriatric care manager who could help assess what care your mom needs and the place way for her to get it. For guidance in finding these people, contact the local Area on Aging, which should be able to provide some referrals. You can find it at:

Community Answers

Dog's best friend answered...

Just wondering, why has your mother lived with your brother and SIL for the last 9 years? What reason has she given you for wanting to move out of their home?

I smell foul play. Are your brother and SIL after your mother's money?

How often do you see your mother? Just wondering if they are neglecting her care somehow, so they can get their hands on her money sooner?! Hope I'm wrong!!

I'm suspicious of them. I think healthy families do discuss things like POA decisions, so everyone's on the same page in helping take care of the elderly parent.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am going through something similar. My sister and I both have joint POA. My sister lives near my mohter in VA and I live in NC. My sister has called herself primary caregiver, but has been neglecting Mom. Mom fell and lay on the floor 7 hours before neighbors contacted Medic. I had been calling for hours and knew something was wrong. Mom always answers the phone. Mom is in rehab now and is to go home next week. My sister thinks if Mom doesn't like something then she should be allowed to follow through eventhough it is UNSAFE. Frankly, my sister should have checked on Mom that day she fell. She went shopping instead. Mom is not as well as she was 2 years ago. She needs help in the home. I am going to VA in 3 weeks to see what needs to be done. It is very stressful when one's sibling orders one to 'GO AWAY' yet tells everyone I will not help. I am a RN by trade and work with elderly clients in their home! My sister tried to trick my Mother into signing over the POA to her only, but I figured it out and called Mom. I told her NOT to sign anything. She didn't. These family dynamics are stressful. I have hired a geriatric care manager and can use her to mediate if needed. Home Health SW will see Mom when she goes home. CC/RN