Few things are more emotionally trying than watching your aging parent’s physical and/or mental health deteriorate to the point where she can no longer make decisions for herself. If you find yourself in just that situation, someone will have to step in and make health care decision for your parent. What happens if you and your sister (or another sibling) cannot agree on who should make those decisions? What options are available to settle your dispute? An elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP discusses options for settling a dispute between siblings regarding health care treatment for a parent.
When Your Parent Ages
As your parents age, there may come a point when you begin to realize a subtle role reversal is occurring. The parent who once took care of you now needs you to take care of him/her. You may reach a point where it becomes necessary for you to make all health care decisions for your parent. While you are more than willing to take over your parent’s care, your sibling doesn’t agree with some of the decisions you are making regarding your parent’s medical care and treatment. Where does that leave you?
Is There an Advance Directive in Place?
The best-case scenario would be for your parent to have executed the appropriate advance directive prior to reaching the point of incapacity. In the State of Illinois, a legal document called an “Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care” allows someone to appoint an Agent to make decisions for them in the event they are unable to make those decisions because of incapacity at some point in the future. An Agent has the authority to do things such as consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment on behalf of the person executing the document. Your first step, therefore, when a dispute arises regarding decision making for your parent should be to determine if your parent executed a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Most people keep a copy with their estate planning documents. You might also ask your parent’s estate planning attorney and/or his/her treating physician.
Alternatives to Litigation
If it appears that your parent did not execute a Power of Attorney for Health Care, there are some options that may help if your sibling is willing to participate. You might try counseling with a therapist who specializes in elder issues. You might also all agree to hire a geriatric care manager. This is often a social worker or nurse and who specialize in assessing a senior’s needs and coordinating the care and resources necessary to help them.
Petitioning for Guardianship
If all else fails, you may need to consider becoming your parent’s legal guardian. If she is truly unable to make her own decisions, then someone else needs to have the legal authority to do so for her. Petitioning to become your parent’s legal guardian will give you that authority. Because guardianship is the most restrictive option, and because your sister has the right to object to your appointment, you should consider guardianship an avenue of last resort. You should also consult with an experienced elder law attorney before making the decision to seek guardianship over your parent.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about making medical decisions for a parent, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.