Watching your father’s health deteriorate is difficult enough with out adding in family conflict. Unfortunately, however, decision relating to a parent’s care can often spur conflict among siblings. If you find yourself in a situation where you and your siblings appear unable to agree on medical treatment or an overall care plan for your father, what can you do? Are there any practical options that might help? What legal options do you have if a resolution becomes impossible? To help answer some of these questions, a Harrison elder law attorney at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia discusses what happens if siblings cannot agree on the care and treatment of a parent.
The Inevitable Role Reversal
Throughout your childhood, your parents cared for, supported, and made important decisions for you and your siblings. As an adult you learned to take care of yourself and your parents continued to take care of their own affairs. At some point, however, your mother passed away and your father’s health has slowly gone downhill ever since. In fact, you are at the point where your roles have been reversed. You and your siblings now need to care for, support, and make decisions for your father. While you are more than willing to take over your father’s care, your siblings don’t agree with some of the decisions you are making regarding his medical care and treatment.
Variations of this theme play out every day all across the country. When an elderly patient reaches the point of incapacity, at which he/she cannot make health care decisions, someone else must make them. When the patient’s adult children cannot agree on a plan of care, it obviously creates a problem.
Did Your Father Execute an Advance Directive?
If you father executed the appropriate advance directive, it should resolve the issue once an for all without the need for further action. In the State of New York, a Health Care Proxy allows someone to appoint an Agent to make decisions for them in the event they are unable to make those decision 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. Find out if your father executed a Health Care Proxy. Check wherever he keeps estate planning and/or legal documents, ask his estate planning attorney and his doctors.
Options for Avoiding the Judicial System
If your father did not execute a Health Care Proxy, there are some options that may help if your siblings are 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 someone who 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 father’s legal guardian. If he is truly unable to make his own decisions, then someone else needs to have the legal authority to do so for him. Petitioning to become your father’s legal guardian will give you that authority. Because guardianship is the most restrictive option, and because your siblings have the right to object to your appointment, you should consider guardianship an avenue of last resort.
Contact a Harrison Elder Law Attorney
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to plan for or coordinate care for a parent, contact a Harrison elder law attorney at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.