Can a POA keep the rest of us from visiting Grandma?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 11, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have an elderly Grandmother who lives alone in another part of the state. The closet relative, who lives within 30 miles of her home, is a second cousin of mine. He is listed as someone who can make medical and financial decisions for my Grandmother, ahead of her daughter, my mother. My cousin is increasingly difficult to get in contact with. It has now been over 2 months since he last contacted me. I've made repeated phone calls and sent various e-mails with no response. When we last spoke he just informed me my planned visit was not convenient and that I should reschedule. I am concerned my cousin is isolating my Grandmother and exercising undue influence over her. Is there anything I can do?


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 scenario you describe raises a question or two"”and does set off some alarm bells.

First, get clear on whether your cousin is actually empowered to agent as your grandmother's agent. Most legal documents listing another person to act for them"”usually a power of attorney for finances and for medical care"”take effect only when a person lacks the legal capacity to act for himself or herself. A few types of powers of attorney are written to take effect immediately or on a certain date but these are rare birds.

I alert you to this because a great many people assume that just because they are named as agent in a power of attorney that they have the immediate right to take over another person's life. If your grandmother is still able to make decisions on her own, then she should be the one deciding when and whether she wants visitors.

Even if your cousin is empowered as agent, however, his duties are likely confined to making decisions about medical care and finances"”all in your grandmother's best interest.

You are right to be concerned about your grandmother becoming isolated"”and so more easily influenced. Insist on a visitation schedule"”and do all you can to get additional eyes on your grandmother in the way of visits from neighbors, friends, other relatives, daycare workers, or home visiting services. If possible, try to involve your grandmother in coming up with a list of people she would be interested in seeing.

If you are concerned that your cousin's behavior may be abusive in some way"”that he is depriving your grandmother of the pleasure of social visits or squandering her money, that could amount to a form of elder abuse. Talk over your concerns with a representative of the local Area Agency on Aging, which you can find at www.n4a.org. Most such agencies are equipped to have a confidential conversation"”and can also recommend local resources that might be available for more help.