How to Get Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent?

When our parents age, it’s a part of life we can’t ignore. Difficult conversations need to be had, and one of those is about securing a power of attorney for your elderly parent. It’s a topic often skirted around until the last minute, but it’s a conversation you ought to have sooner rather than later. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to get power of attorney for an elderly parent—trust us, it’s not as complex as it sounds.

Let’s follow the story of Sarah, a busy mom of two and a loving daughter. Sarah faced the realization that her father, aged 81, was starting to experience cognitive issues. Like many of us, she had no idea where to start.

What Is Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you to nominate another person to make decisions for you, particularly when you are unable to do so.


  1. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse.
  2. A 2019 AARP report indicated that only 45% of U.S. adults have set up a durable power of attorney for healthcare.

What Does Power of Attorney Do?

A power of attorney authorizes your chosen representative—known as an “agent”—to make financial, medical, or other personal decisions for you. Whether it’s picking the right healthcare service or deciding which bills need immediate attention, a POA covers it. Sarah, for example, stepped in to ensure her father was getting his medication on time and making it to his doctor appointments, tasks he had started to neglect.

Types of Power of Attorney

Not all POAs are created equal. Here are the types:

  • General Power of Attorney: Gives broad powers to the representative, including financial and business transactions.
  • Special Power of Attorney: Limits the representative’s authority to specific tasks.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: Allows the representative to make medical decisions.

Sarah picked a combo of Healthcare and General POA. That way, she ensures her dad gets proper medical treatment and also manages his finances.

Who Can Be Power of Attorney?

Almost any competent adult can act as an agent. However, it’s crucial that the person is trustworthy, reliable, and capable of making rational decisions. Sarah decided that despite her busy schedule, she would be the best fit for her dad. After all, who else knew him better?

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When to Get Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent?

The best time to get power of attorney is when your parent is still mentally competent to make informed decisions. Waiting too long could complicate the process legally and emotionally. Sarah, for instance, quickly acted as she noticed her father’s cognitive skills declining.

How to Get Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent: The Legal Steps

So you’ve decided that it’s time to get power of attorney for your aging parent. That’s a big, brave step to take. Here’s what you should do:

1. Consult a Legal Expert

First things first: consult a legal expert. Whether it’s an elder law attorney or someone specialized in family law, make sure they have a track record of handling POAs. A legal expert can help you draft the document in line with your state’s laws and your parent’s unique needs.

2. Fill Out the Necessary Forms

Your lawyer will guide you through the multitude of forms that you might encounter. They are like the TSA of paperwork, making sure everything is in order before you proceed.

3. Notarization

Your POA document needs to be notarized to give it the seal of authenticity. You, your parent, and usually at least two witnesses will need to sign it in front of a notary. There are no shortcuts here; every signature matters.

4. Record-Keeping

After the notarization, create copies of the POA and distribute them to relevant parties like healthcare providers, banks, and family members who should be in the loop. Sarah digitized her copies, so she had access to them anytime, anywhere.

Navigating the Emotional Landscape: Preparing for POA Conversations

1. Have an Open Conversation with Your Parent

It’s not enough to assume that you’re doing what’s best. Talk openly with your parent about why this step is important. This is a conversation filled with emotional gravitas; it’s almost like discussing who gets the last slice of Thanksgiving pie, but way, way more critical.

2. Involve Other Family Members

Two heads are better than one, and when you’re dealing with something as life-changing as a POA, it can be helpful to include siblings or other close family members in the conversation. Just make sure they’re people you can count on to add value to the discussion. Sarah included her brother Mark, who was equally concerned about their father’s well-being, to ensure a collective decision.

3. Emotional Readiness

Both you and your parent may experience a range of emotions during this process. It’s a visible marker of a life stage, and acknowledging the limitations that come with it can be tough. Sarah found that focusing on the positives—like the peace of mind a POA can provide—helped ease the emotional weight.

Bottom Line

Getting a power of attorney for an elderly parent isn’t just paperwork; it’s a responsible act of love. Like Sarah, once you’ve gone through the process, you’ll gain not just legal authority but peace of mind. You’ll know that when the time comes, you’ll be ready and equipped to make the best decisions for your parent’s welfare.



  1. National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Elder Abuse Facts.
  2. AARP. (2019). Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

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