Common myths about a power of attorney

Sunrise Senior Living  |  October 3, 2017

At Sunrise Senior Living communities across the country, we often receive questions from older adults and their family members when they are planning for future care needs. We know it can be confusing. We also understand that there are a variety of misconceptions out there. And many of them relate to the Power of Attorney document (POA).

These misconceptions can create problems for seniors and their families if an emergency arises. We thought it might be helpful to address a few of the most common myths about what a POA is—and isn’t.

Busting the Myths about a Power of Attorney

Myth:  If a senior signs a POA, they forfeit their independence and rights to make their own decisions.

FACT: The reality is that the scope of a Power of Attorney document can be as broad—or as narrow—as you want it to be. For example, a POA can be written to require a physician statement attesting that the senior is incapable of making his or her own decisions.

Myth: A Power of Attorney is good only in the state in which it was written.

FACT: This one is a little more complicated. Some states will recognize a POA created in another state, while others won’t. And laws regarding financial and healthcare POA documents vary from state to state. This can make it difficult for retirees who spend time traveling or who have a second home. For example, the state of New York requires two documents for healthcare decisions: a healthcare proxy and a living will. The proxy names a person who will make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to, and the living will expresses your wishes for care. If you aren’t sure what the laws are where you live, you can look up your state’s requirements for living wills and healthcare power of attorney documents here.

Myth: A Durable Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Power of Attorney are one and the same.

FACT: Not true! A Durable Power of Attorney is for property-related decisions and actions. The document outlines who can make financial and business-related decisions on your behalf. By contrast, a Healthcare Power of Attorney grants a trusted friend or family member with the ability to make healthcare decisions. It is important to know that the authority of a Healthcare Power of Attorney is recognized differently in each state.

Myth: Seniors are the only people who need a POA.

FACT: Unfortunately, serious illnesses and accidents can strike at any age. It is important for adults to create whatever documents their state of residence recognizes. Should an unforeseen event render you unable to speak on your own behalf and there isn’t a POA in place, a family member will typically need to go through the lengthy and expensive process of obtaining a guardianship.

Financing Senior Living

Another topic families often ask us about is financing senior living. If you or a senior loved one has questions, our Financial Options Resource Center can be of help. We encourage you to explore resources ranging from short-term bridge loans to the Veteran’s Aid & Attendance Benefit.