A medical power of attorney can be used in certain circumstances to admit an individual to a nursing home. A person can appoint an agent to make medical decisions for him in case he becomes mentally incapacitated. Medical power of attorneys must be made by a person, referred to as a principal, while he is still competent. The agent accepting the appointment also must be a competent adult. Family members are frequently chosen, but it is not a requirement that a relative serve.
A power of attorney may be drafted broadly to cover many different health events. Or it may use very specific language to limit an agent's power. You must carefully examine the wording of a particular power of attorney to determine if it allows the agent to admit the principal for nursing home care. Generally, medical power of attorneys do allow agents to make nursing home, assisted living and hospice arrangements for principals.
The decision to admit a principal to a nursing home must be based on her best interests. An agent is charged with a legal duty of care and trust to his principal. Therefore, before a principal is placed in a nursing home, it is wise to consult with her family members and health care providers.
Generally, medical power of attorneys may only be used if principals are unable to competently make medical decisions. Therefore, an agent typically may not admit a principal to a nursing home against her coherent wishes. Medical power of attorneys also usually state that the principal's incompetency must be determined by more than one health care specialist. Once a principal is properly declared incompetent, the general rule is that medical power of attorneys permit agents to admit principals to nursing homes for necessary care.
Generally, an agent may admit an incompetent principal for needed nursing home care without incurring personal, financial liability. Medical power of attorneys often stipulate that the agent is not responsible for the principal's medical bills. Therefore, an agent generally should not have to personally guarantee the cost of a principal's admission to a nursing home. Agents should be careful to make this clear when dealing with nursing homes. This should also be noted in writing if the agent signs any documents for a principal's admission to an assisted health care facility.
- State Bar of Michigan Elder Law and Disability Rights Section: Advance Directives: Planning for Medical Care in the Event of Loss of Decision-Making Ability
- Legal Help for West Virginians: The Medical Power of Attorney: What Do I Need to Know?
- The Missouri Bar: Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive
- Texas Medical Association: Medical Power of Attorney
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.