How can we overrule Grandma's decision to put Grandpa in a nursing home?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My grandma just put my grandfather in a nursing home and our family does not want that for him at all. If we were to take him into our home (my parents) could we gain power of attorney over my grandmother? If she refuses financial aid could we take her to court?

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 you know too well, you're witnessing a hard thing"”and another truth is that unless some neglect or abuse is going on, you're not likely to get help from a power of attorney or from a court.

A power of attorney would only be relevant in your situation if your grandma agrees to one"”and agrees to name someone else to take care of her finances or health care decisions. You can read more about powers of attorney on this website at

And a court will not likely get involved unless you are convinced that either your grandma or grandpa or both need guardianships or conservatorships. You can find out more about that option on this site at

But in finding some solution, the first thing you need to do is to take a hard and honest look at your grandparents. Keep in mind that if they are mentally competent"”that is, are able to reason and understand the nature and consequences of making choices, then they are basically free to make their own decisions. The decision to move to a nursing home usually comes after considering other options and is rarely taken lightly"”especially if it means a couple will then have to live apart.

Growing old often involves struggles and hard decisions. But many older people report that something that makes all that even harder is when their family members ignore their needs and desires about how and where they should live.

The most important thing to do may be to stay in touch and monitor what's going on. You don't say how close you live to your grandma and grandpa, but a good first step would be for you and your parents to visit them both separately. While there, try to view the decision through their eyes.

Pay attention to the care your grandpa is receiving and the quality of life he has in his new environment. It may be the best option available"”or might stand some improvement because of something you can do, such as writing or visiting regularly, or encouraging him to take part in new or different activities.

And try to talk with your grandma about what was going on before the nursing home decision was made. It could be that your grandpa suffered a setback in his physical or mental health that made it impossible for her to care for him safely on her own.

Then you and your parents should have an honest talk about the possible alternatives. Is it realistic for your parents to care for your grandpa at home? Would you move him in, but not your grandma? Could they both continue to live at home if you were able to arrange for some help such as nursing care or daycare?

But if your conversations and listening reveal something else hard"”that your grandpa is being neglected, for example, or that your grandma doesn't not seem mentally sound enough to make decisions on her own, then you may need to take some additional steps. Your best option may be to call the local Area Office on Aging and ask for the options and resources available in the area. You can find that local information at