Power of Attorney is a legal tool that allows a person to give someone else the authority to handle health issues and financial issues. In some cases, elderly persons choose to sign over power of attorney to a trusted family member to ensure that in cases where they cannot make health or financial decisions themselves, someone else will be in a position to make those decisions. Power of attorney is often used in situations where a person develops dementia or another condition that affects decision-making ability.
According to many legal experts, however, while power of attorney ideally protects an elderly person in some cases it has been used to perpetuate nursing home and elder abuse in Miami Springs and other communities. In the wrong hands, power of attorney can be used for financial abuse, fraud, and other criminal activity.
According to MetLife Mature Market Institute, elderly residents across the US suffer financial abuse on a regular basis, losing an estimated $2.9 billion yearly. In about 24% of these cases, friends and family are the culprits. While there are no figured about abuse of power of attorney specifically, many attorneys believe that it is a persistent and wide-ranging problem. According to legal experts, there are several things that can be done to help prevent this type of abuse:
1) Maintain good communication with an elderly loved one. Good communication and frequent check-ins are important. In many cases, they can help families detect fraud or other suspicious activity around an elderly friend or family member. Frequent check-ins can also ensure that symptoms and illnesses are dealt with promptly. If a loved one develops dizziness or other troubling symptoms after a slip and fall accident in Miami Springs, for example, it is more likely that they can be encouraged to seek medical treatment if family members and friends are checking in.
2) Have a system of checks and balances involving multiple family members and friends. Rather than having one person responsible for care and being the agent in a power of attorney agreement, have multiple people helping with the care of an elderly relative. This does two things. First, it ensures that one person is not overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities (which has been linked with an increased risk of abuse). Secondly, it ensures that if abuse is taking place, others are more likely to notice it.
3) Understand power of attorney and use it wisely. General power of attorney allows for a temporary power of attorney agreement to complete a specific transaction. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to make certain decisions when a person becomes incapacitated. Estate planning involving power of attorney should be made while an elderly relative is in good condition and able to make their own decisions about agents and estate planning. It is important to consult with a qualified attorney in Miami Springs or your community to discuss these issues.
4) Use additional caution if your elderly loved one needs an assisted living facility. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and negligence in Miami Springs and across Florida is a real concern for families and nursing home abuse takes place far too often. If your elderly relative needs to be placed in a facility or nursing home, excellent communication and frequent visits can help ensure that any abuse is detected quickly and addressed. In these cases, power of attorney can be useful in ensuring that there is someone to speak for a relative when the loved one cannot speak for themselves.
If you believe that someone has used power of attorney or other legal tools to harm an elderly loved one, contact the Flaxman Law Group to review your legal options with an attorney.