Can a power of attorney be revised after a dementia diagnosis?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 09, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister has power of attorney for my mother and am her health care proxy. My sister took money from our mom's account to prepay for a funeral, which she hasn't yet gotten nor has she paid any of mom's bills. Our mother was diagnosed with dementia. My sister hasn`t seen our mom in months. No one in the family will talk to her because of what she is doing. How do we get power of attorney away from her? Our mom signed it after being diagnosed with dementia.

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.

It sounds as if you and the other family members have given up in exasperation due to your sister’s actions and inactions—and that is understandable.

However, it may be worthwhile to try to have one family meeting in which you try to reason with your sister, explain that you are all concerned with providing the best care for your mom—and ask whether she needs help in carrying out the serious duties of acting as your mother’s financial agent.

If that approach doesn’t work, and your sister persists in her bad behavior, then she may actually be committing financial elder abuse—and you should take action to stop it at once. Your first stop should be to contact the local Area on Aging.

Representatives there should provide a confidential assessment of your situation and refer you to additional local resources for help if that becomes necessary.

If it becomes necessary to remove your sister as your mother’s agent under the power of attorney for finances, be sure you have someone in mind who is ready and able to take over the job.

Community Answers

Bad son answered...

If your sister will not respond to a family meeting and you live in the United States, please consider stopping at your local police department. Many states have passed legislation which make your sister's behavior a criminal offense. When I took the POA/ Attorney in Fact (AIF) responsibility for my mother, the family attorney thoroughly explained: my responsibilities to my mother cannot be breached for personal gain or other family members may go to police authorities to protect mom's wealth. They have a responsibility to investigate and present the case to the State's Attorney FOR CRIMINAL CHARGING. I live in Wisconsin, USA, and there are some very helpful elder care laws on the books here specifically designed to protect the elderly from this type of misappropriation (theft). You may want to tell sister dearest that you suspect she is mishandling mom's finances and if she doesn't make good, the rest of the family will seek legal resolve. Lets face it, that's your mom's money and your sister's actions have clearly raised red flags.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am durable power of attorney for parent with dementia. One of the ways to legally "spend down" a persons assets so they are eligible for medicaid care is to prepay for a funeral. This is actually in the best interests of the parent and the children. She may be consulting with an attorney on ways to pay for future care, so don't be quick to judge. Same with the bills -- sometimes they should be contested and working it out can take more than a year.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Regarding the last answer------If Sis is legitimately spending Mom's money, is she also showing appropriate documentation to support her spending? I agree spending is sometimes necessary, but she should then show receipts or provide her supporting paperwork via her consulting lawyer. The family and Mom have the right to protect Mom's assets.

Daleleigh answered...

You should seek an attorney ,and have him handle the dealing with your sister if you can afford it, I will tell you why. My husband has 3 siblings he is the his sister stepped in after their dad died and took over her finances' (this was brought to our attention after their mother had passed.) the youngest his brother lived at the home and took care of her in the end. In short the eldest whom was successor trust manager of the" Living trust " and "the pore over will". with that said ,how she manipulated and deceived came out after finding a box of Moms bank statement (at least ones that the she didn't know Mom had) showed how she worked it all in the last 20 years "really to much to get into " in short she was able to not only have all the monies and acct, and corticated, savings ,checking gifted to her ,and the house clearly was to be divided after sale 25% to each. the calculating she managed to succeed after sale of the home after 2years vacant not doing one thing to it (another long story) 21/2 years ,I ran a web looking for sales I checked back ever few menthes and nothing ,then got a tip from a friend of a friend and found that she had sold the house for what 113,000 when neighborhood home selling for 190-230's and issued a check for 8,000 after her charges? All said I found out she actually sold the house 245,00 and that was that (really so much more but Already) have made this longer than I wanted ..GET A LAWYER she manged with all monies, act etc... and house; gained over 400,000,+ a nice little nest egg.