Talk to me about elder care & power of attorney in Seattle
September 21, 2016 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Asking for my husband: Dad is dealing with a recent heart surgery, new bipolar diagnosis, heavy grief, and loss of his primary support. Who do I talk to and what do I ask them when it comes to power of attorney, and making sure his needs are taken care of? Details below the fold.

My father recently received triple-bypass surgery. Shortly after his 3-week recuperation, he had a manic episode and had to be put in monitored psychiatric care (a locked ward). 6-8 weeks later, once his medication had been settled upon by the doctors and he seemed more stable, he was due to be released, but the day of release, his wife (my stepmother) died from an accident. He is now back at home, but his ability to care for himself is dubious and the only other family member helping out is my sister. I should also point out that I live in Portland, while my sister lives in Seattle (where my dad’s house is) and that I got laid off from my job the day we found out about my stepmother’s death so I really need to be in Portland in order to collect unemployment. My sister has just acquired durable power-of-attorney over dad, but only for herself (she hasn’t included me in any of the planning).

Additional complications: Dad is on Medicare and has no other insurance or retirement of his own, though he will receive social security survivor's benefits. My sister is talking about moving into his house with him in a few months, but I don't really see how he's going to manage alone in the interim. She grew up in that house, though, and I have some concerns she might over-prioritize keeping the house rather than selling in order to pay for my dad to move into assisted living.

I had a long conversation with my mother-in-law about elder care and legal trust issues. She encouraged me to look into the legal ramifications of power-of-attorney and recommended that both my sister and I share PoA rather than her being the sole arbiter. She told me that any attorney will offer a free 30-minute consultation, and that I should find a good one in Seattle and avail myself of this opportunity to figure out what my options are and what the best way to proceed is.

My questions to you, mefites:
1 - Does anyone have any recommendations for good elder care or trust attorneys in the Seattle, WA area?
2 - What questions should I ask during a consultation?
3 - Are there other resources I should be looking into?

I’m a newbie at this legal stuff, so I have no idea where to start. Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated!
posted by polymath to Law & Government (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might try contacting the Seattle/King County Aging and Disability Services.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2016

Oh my - please pass along my sincere condolences. The only thing I can offer is that someone (sister?) should get Durable Medical Power of Attorney, as well. This will allow him/her to make medical decisions for Dad. Always take copies of these documents to any/all doctor's appointments and have them handy in any medical emergency - it eliminates a lot of bs.
I would also suggest that you or sister contact Seattle Senior Services, as well.
posted by dbmcd at 3:02 PM on September 21, 2016

I can't address your Seattle-specific questions, but I'll take a stab at the others. I think your mother-in-law is along the right lines about sharing PoA. My cousin and I did that for our aunt, and that worked pretty well. If you think your father will need medical decisions made for him, however, you might want to see about getting conservatorship or guardianship as opposed to PoA. That gives you decision-making rights about both financial AND medical matters. However, generally the person in question has to have already demonstrated an inability to care for themselves. It's appointed by the court, so it might get expensive getting an elder care lawyer to go through that for you.

Ask about meals on wheels or other home care visit benefits he might qualify for from either Medicare or elder care programs in the area. He might be able to manage if he has someone to expect every day. The key things to consider are: will he be able to keep track of his meds and medical visits, can he get some food every day, and will he be able to pay his bills. Is he currently able to walk/drive/get out of the house unassisted? Your sister could probably stay on top of his bills and general housekeeping with a weekly visit, but the food and meds/medical care might be more of a challenge.

I wish you and your family well.
posted by clone boulevard at 3:03 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a consultation a few years ago with Janet Smith of the Northwest Elder Law Group. Her advice about my mother was very helpful.
posted by jasminea at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2016

Janet Smith is a well known Elder Care attorney in my area so seconding jasminea.
posted by lois1950 at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2016

Since your Dad apparently already signed a PoA giving your sister rights, you will need to talk to the attorney about what that means and also if your father is even competent to sign a new/amended one at this point in time.

Also, read up on Medicate benefits. My understanding is that Medicare will not pay for assisted living and your father will have to spend down his assets before he can qualify for Medicaid (which is different from Medicare) to pay for nursing home care when he gets to that point. There are some complicated rules about what happens to the house if your sister is living in it when it gets to that time. There are situations where the family (and your father) may be better off getting day time aides in the home and your sister providing care at night than selling the house and paying for assisted living until the money runs out.

Finally, please be super, super gentle in your dealings with your sister. This is the kind of thing that sets up bad family dynamics that can extended for decades after the parent is finally gone. Try as hard as you come to approach her from an assumption that you both care very much about your father and want what is best of him. Even (or especially) if you suspect that might not be 100% true, you will get further with her if you can build on the common goal of helping your dad.
posted by metahawk at 7:58 PM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

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