Saturday, April 9, 2022
This tends to happen in waves, but I've been receiving a lot of calls lately from people who are concerned about an aging neighbor or a casual friend.
For example, in one communication, the caller was worried about a neighbor lady in her 80s who had stopped her on the sidewalk recently to ask for a recommendation for an attorney to come to her house. She seemed to want help "working out a proper arrangement" for a younger person to live in her house on a rent-to-own type of contract. The older neighbor didn't seem to have money to maintain the house. A complication -- more than a solution -- was the fact the woman had adult children, but didn't want to "bother" them and they lived out-of-town.
In the second situation, it was an early morning text, asking for help for a friend, where an agent, operating under a "new" Power of Attorney, was denying permission for the live-in Significant Other to visit the friend now that she was in assisted living. Apparently the SO was raising objections about the quality of care (or maybe just the lack of appropriate care) in AL. Suddenly a POA surfaced, purporting to give authority for an out-of-state relative to direct the AL to deny the SO's visits because they were disturbing the patient.
Red flags everywhere in these fact patterns.
Both of these fact patterns are variations on a theme. Protective service units (if they have sufficient staffing) and long-time Elder Law attorneys can often respond effectively. But one of the biggest changes I've found since the pandemic is finding "live" people who might be available and willing to help. Shortages of staff, overworked solo attorneys, budget cutbacks -- all play a part of the challenges to find effective services to assist older adults.
All of this puts a premium on advance planning -- for more than "just" wills or trusts.
When we wait until we are already seriously ill or until we are in our 80s, we are running a huge risk that we won't get the advice and counsel we need to make sound, effective choices. We need to make these plans while we still "clearly" have capacity. If the person with cancer had added instructions and her preferences about visitors before surgery, it would be less likely she is denied time with someone who cares enough to seek better care.