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This Job Sucks! How To Choose the Right Power of Attorney

While visiting with a friend who just lost his sister, he shared how difficult it was for him because his sister had chosen him (above her parents, children and other siblings) to be her Power of Attorney (POA). His sister was in the final stages of cancer when he had to make some very difficult decisions about her care at the end. Having spoken with her at length about what she did and did not want done to prolong her life, he followed her wishes and made decisions accordingly, which meant not approving a procedure that would have been very painful and would have done little to change the outcome of her prognosis.

Those who have never had to make potentially life/death decisions cannot imagine the strength it takes to make these types of choices, even if it is following the directions of your loved one to the letter.

As I have shared in my speaking and blogging, choosing a POA (and making sure it is the right person for the job) is imperative. (See What is a Power of Attorney?). However, being named as the “chosen one” has its burdens as well.

Here are just a few:

  • You may question why you were picked and wonder if you are the best choice;

  • Others may question why you were picked, thinking they would have been a better choice;

  • Knowing the right time/situation to step in to help someone in making difficult health-care decisions isn’t easy;

  • You need the strength to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF your emotions and/or the emotions of other family members; and

  • You need the courage to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF the criticism of those around you.

Sounds daunting but have heart; there is hope.

Here are some steps you can take to encourage the person who has chosen you as the Power of Attorney, and to make the job a lot easier for yourself:

  • Have a very direct and serious conversation about what they want/don’t want in certain situations. Use these Proactive Questions as a starting point.

  • Ask them to write down in DETAIL what they would or would not want if certain situations were to arise (helpful tool – 5 wishes)

  • Ask them to share their decision to choose you with other family members (family conflict can arise when someone else thinks they are in charge, only to realize they were not the “chosen one”),

  • Respect your family members’ wishes by asking them to write them down in detail so you can follow their instructions and include them in the caregiving process.

  • Make sure that everyone in the family understands that this was their decision and that this is not about “favorites”, it is about who THEY FEEL is able to manage the care in the fashion requested by the assignee.

Important point!!

**Just because someone asks you to be his or her power-of-attorney does not mean you have to say “yes”.

You must be willing and able to follow their wishes IN SPITE OF your own thoughts, feelings or emotional connection and have thick skin and an unwavering spirit to face the potential hostile response/criticism that may come from other family members. If you do not think you can do that, you should be honest with them and graciously decline and share the reasons.

Written by Author and Keynote Speaker Sue Salach-Cutler. Sue has a Master’s degree in Gerontology and has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years. She is the Author of “Along Comes Grandpa”, a caregiving resource guide, and the novel “If I Walked in Her Shoes”. Her programs and books provide the vital resources needed to help family caregivers as they maneuver through the caregiving journey. Find out more about her books and programs here: Adapted from:

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