If my uncle dies, will they notify family first or the POA?

1 answer | Last updated: Jul 19, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

My uncle is in a health center that helps people who need therapy for speech, occupational, and physical. He has given a friend POA, (more to the story), we believe not in the best interest of himself as he really cannot respond correctly due to his speech. He says "yes" to most everything because that is all he can pretty much do coherently, and he also has a mild case of dementia so far. My question is: What happens if he is moved to another place? Does the current facility have to notify his only living relatives? I have to tell you that his POA "friend" has refused to let his family have any health information at all. I have tried to talk with the POA and he only stated that I did not have permission to any information, and then he hung up on me. Contacting him again is out of the question; he also stated that I/we should contact a lawyer and have that lawyer contact my uncle's lawyer. One more question: When a patient dies who is notified first? I and my sister are my uncle's living relatives. POA's and Healthcare Proxies are no longer valid the moment of death is pronounced, correct? So does that mean his family is to be notified first? What if the facility does not even know we exist because this "friend" POA didn't tell them?

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.

The health facility in which your uncle is being treated should maintain a list of people to be contacted in case he is transferred or dies. Contact the administrators there and ask to be put on it.

On the offchance that the administrators there balk at your request"”some may insist they maintain only one "Person of Interest" as a contact, some hesitate to become involved in family feuds, some are just plain lazy"”then contact the local ombudsman, an impartial type of mediator assigned to most facilities, who may intervene or find a way to help. You should be able to find the proper ombudsman though the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform at www.nccnhr.org/ombudsman.

Are you and your sister able to visit your uncle? If so, that would help demonstrate to workers at the facility"”and more importantly, to your uncle, that you are concerned about his care.

It is not clear why you would want to contact your uncle's lawyer"”or why you would need to hire a lawyer to call your uncle's lawyer. Try resolving your problems through the health center.