Everybody has a story. Mix in a dab of dementia, a ton of family dynamics, a slab of money and you will have the recipe for the Perfect Storm and a great story. Having spent close to 30 years in the long-term health care industry, I have heard every possible version of who takes the” best care of Daddy” , “who in the family could not care less” and who is strictly a” player waiting on his inheritance.” Quite honestly, it is all very irrelevant to me, but I am forced to listen to every single son, daughter, grandchild and any other interested party of the resident who feels the need to explain their ” status” and position.
Over the past few months, I have been dealing with one resident, six sets of lawyers, eight adult children, Adult Protective Services and four different medical doctors. Each day, my time is consumed by this group of people. It is a drama filled excursion to say the least. One son wants mama to live in another state, closer to him. One daughter wants mama to move to another part of Virginia to be closer to her. Another wants mama moved to a hi-rise, luxury facility on her side of town. The middle child wants mama in a nursing home. The resident’s husband says his wife is to not be moved anywhere, at anytime, by anyone. The question I have yet to have the answer to is so simple, yet so complex. Who exactly calls the shots here and is the actual Power of Attorney (POA)?
One would think the spouse has full rights to dictate his wife’s care. He has a notary sealed POA. Ummm, well, so does 4 of the children. Each one can produce their own legal documents stating they are “in charge”. My legal beagles tried to clear matters up by stating, ” Whoever holds the most current document is the actual POA. Follow the date trail and adhere to who holds the most current one.”
Well, that sounds simple enough, I study each document, finally determining which one is “most current.” Seems like the third child wins.
I draft a letter to all eight children and the husband stating my finding. I conclude the letter with ” I do hope this brings a resolution to this matter.” Resolution, Yeah right.
For the next two weeks, my office was bombarded with certified letters, phone calls and a host of emails from the family.
” Mother was not competent when she signed that document. I will see you in court.”
“You are not in the position to make this judgment call. My lawyer will be contacting you personally to clarify your letter.”
“Your concern Ms. Steele is noted, however, you are biased and have no place in our family matters. My lawyer will be contacting you.”
“My mother is fully competent and can make her own decisions. My sister has ulterior motives which involves monetary gain and exploitation of my mother’s affairs.”It is your duty to protect my mother, not feed her to the wolves. I am pursuing legal action.”
Oh goody. So much for problem solved.
The next day, the middle son walks into my office, hands me his POA and a ” No Trespass” document that was clearly a product of google search. He explains to me that he received my letter however unless I am prepared to be sued, he expected me to honor his POA and his ” No Trespass” which he had filled in with all of his siblings names, blocking them from the facility. Ummmmmmmm……….hmmmmmmm.
The following morning, the middle daughter arrives at the facility at 6:30 am, She told the staff she was taking her mother out to breakfast. When I arrive at work, the staff are in a full panic over the resident being ” abducted” by the daughter. I explain to them that it is all ok…that she is the POA…….
Within hours, the husband called, demanding to know why his wife was at the bank trying to withdraw five hundred dollars from their joint account. I explained she was with the POA and that I had no control over where they go……
By 2 pm, I was beginning to worry….I tried to call the daughter’s cell phone…no answer. I left a voicemail. Around 3 PM, the oldest daughter called, demanding to speak to her mother on the phone. I explained she was still out of the facility with the other daughter, which caused a major explosion.
” I’m calling the police.” Which she did.
By 6 pm, the resident was returned to the facility, safe and sound. The daughter was livid. ” You really called the police Jessi? Who do you think you are?” Before I could answer, she stormed off………Wait, I didn’t call the police….
The following Tuesday morning, I received a full medical report stating that the resident had seen a ” house call doctor and his finding were” patient is deemed competent and can make her own decisions and does not need care.” I was perplexed…when did she see this doctor? The address provided for him was over four hours away……..hmmmm. So, the day the daughter took her out for over 12 hours was really not a breakfast outing but rather a doctor’s visit …HMMM. Very covert.
By Thursday, I had lawyers lining up at my door. Each presenting me with a ” Notice of Hearing” document, to determine who would be appointed Guardian IF the court deemed one necessary. I almost needed those “name tags that read ” Hello My Name Is” just to define which lawyer went with each son or daughter. Each lawyer would try to have a conversation with the resident….asking her various questions which the resident could not answer….remember, she does have dementia.
The saga continues and will probably be drug out for some time as does with any legal battle. But what really is the motive for so many opinions? Could it be due to the fact that the resident is worth millions of dollars and the POA will have full access to the bank accounts, condos and time shares? Could it be that this family is just dysfunctional to the point where each has to control the other? I honestly do not know the answer.
The lesson I hope we all take from this story is, make your important life decisions while you are of sound mind. Have a set of Advance Directives drawn up legally, appointing the most trusted person in your life as your POA. Only appoint one person, not half a dozen. if you choose to revoke a POA, do it correctly and maintain copies of every letter sent or received in regards to the POA. People that do my type of job will make sure you are safe, comfortable and well cared for, but we can not protect you from your family unless we have a tidy paper trail clearly identifying who’s who in your life. By doing these things, you will enable us to be your greatest enforcer of your life choices. Otherwise, you may be the next “covert operation”.