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

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 Answer

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.