Is court my only option when facing a conflict with my father's power of attorney?

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

My witty, cognizant, if somewhat confused by worsening dementia, father, went into a nursing hom less than two weeks ago. He is being neglected by his former caregiver. Allergies were purposely not disclosed, making him confused and incoherent in less than three days. During a family discussion, the caregiver indicated they are not interested in working to right the problem. I am the back up power of attorney, according to the nursing home social worker. The caregiver witholds all information on my father's care and will not return phone calls. I have raised this issue with the nursing home (who are attempting to work with the caregiver). I strongly suspect that very soon, I will be cut out entirely at the caregivers request. I do not know what authority the caregiver has, but assume both POA and healthcare proxy. Is court my only option?

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.

As a family member, the concerns you raise about your father’s quality of care will usually trump the opinions of a caregiver who is not related. And now that your father is being cared for in a nursing home, the former caregiver you describe may hold even less sway.

You have already made the first best step to resolving the conflict out of court by contacting nursing home administrators and expressing your concerns. That alone may solve the matter.

If you don’t get the help you need from the nursing home administrators, take the next step to reaching a suitable solution out of court. Every nursing home is assigned an ombudsman—a person outside the facility and not associated with the company who is responsible for investigating complaints, reporting allegations of elder abuse, and helping residents solve problems through mediation. You can find local contacts and information through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

Community Answers

Elderesolutions answered...

Nursing homes advocate for their residents, and so do ombudsman.  Both of them may be able to help your situation, but generally only if it is relatively "simple" - they just don't have the time to work out the details to most concerns.

Consider contacting an elder mediator to bring all the parties together to really determine all the appropriate issues, while also considering each parties interests.  An elder mediator, trained in both mediation AND eldercare issues, acts as an impartial facilitator. As a neutral, an elder mediator can often help the parties come up with their own creative solutions.

Read more about elder mediation at (topics of elder or probate).