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Posted March 20, 2008

Ask An Expert

Care Resources: Help Enforcing Power of Attorney

Q. My brother has suffered a stroke. My sister has power of attorney. The nursing facility where the hospital wants to send him will not accept the power of attorney. They want my sister to sign as being responsible and she does not want to because my brother's insurance will pay and he has his own income. What can we do? The hospital is discharging him, and the nursing facility won't accept the paper work. He lives alone and is a Vietnam veteran. No one in the family is able to care for him. Is it legal for the facility to not accept power of attorney?

Sharon, L., Harvest, Alabama.

A. If the power of attorney is a legally executed document, the facility must acknowledge its validity. Please have your sister contact the attorney who filed the document to call the facility to reassure them that all is proper. This does not mean that the facility will accept your brother, however. They might still come up with a contrived reason not to accept him.

On the matter of signing as the responsible party, the answer depends on what they want her to agree to. If the facility is asking her to be responsible for payment out of her personal funds, it would be illegal to make such a request as long as the facility is in the Medicaid program (which most nursing homes are).

It is a different matter if the facility wants her to sign as power of attorney. She would be signing that she will pay those charges not covered under his insurance plan or from his income. The facility is concerned about payment from your brother’s funds.

It would be a good idea to consult an elder law attorney. Go to http://www.naela.org to find one close to you. I am not an attorney. You can also go to http://www.adph.org/contactus.asp, which is the website for the Alabama Department of Public Health, for more help. Since your brother is a veteran, it would be a good idea to contact the Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs at http://www.va.state.al.us/ Thank you and good luck.

This answer is provided by Jack Halpern, MPS, LNHA, an eldercare advocate and a licensed nursing home administrator based in New York City. Halpern, a nationally recognized expert on eldercare issues, is the author of many articles on eldercare and nursing home abuse, and is the CEO of My Elder Advocate. His website is www.myelderadvocate.com, and he can be reached at jhalpern@myelderadvocate.com.

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