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What is a Power of Attorney and Why Should My Parent Have One?

When it comes to caring for an older parent or family member, there are certain documents that you should ensure your loved one has. From advanced directives and living wills to powers of attorney, it can be overwhelming to understand the purpose of each form and why an aging family member should have one.

Since these documents are so important, Franklin Park® Senior Living wants to share some information on one in particular: power of attorney. We’re taking a look at what a power of attorney is and why the senior in your life should have one.

What is a Power of Attorney? 

A power of attorney (POA) is an essential legal document. It gives a person (called an agent) the authority to make decisions on another person’s (called the principal) behalf should the principal be unable to make the decision.

Different types of POAs allow the agent to do various things on the principal’s behalf. Because each type gives authority to different areas, many people will incorporate a combination of POAs into an estate plan. We encourage you to visit the Texas Health and Human Services website for more information on your POA options.

The most common POAs include:

Specific Power of Attorney 

Also called a special power of attorney, this POA is generally granted on a temporary basis. It allows the agent to act on someone’s behalf under a specific and limited set of circumstances, like selling a house or paying a bill.

General Power of Attorney 

A general power of attorney allows for more comprehensive and thorough authority and is typically one of the best options for an older adult and their family or caregiver. This POA enables the agent to fully act on someone’s behalf in all legal and financial matters.

Medical Power of Attorney

Like a general power of attorney, a medical POA (sometimes called a health care proxy) allows the agent to make medical and health care decisions on behalf of the principal.

Durable Power of Attorney 

Often the most valuable for aging adults and their families, a durable POA allows the agent to handle all legal, financial, and [sometimes] medical affairs, even if the principal becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. This means that an agent would have the authority to make decisions if the principal is living with a cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

What Does a Power of Attorney Mean for My Family?

Since a power of attorney is essential in ensuring your older family member’s health and financial wishes are prioritized, it’s important to seek them out sooner than later. Without having one in place, you and your family run the risk of not having control or authority if something were to happen, leading to frustration and, potentially, court intervention.

Every older adult should have a power of attorney in place eventually, but here are some scenarios where you and your family should consider setting one up sooner than later.

Diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease: Setting up a POA is crucial if your parent or family member has received a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other mental impairment. In this situation, it’s necessary to give medical, legal, and financial authority to a family member before a significant decline in cognitive function or communication ability occurs.

Other Health Concerns: In addition to dementia, other health concerns could provide a reason to establish a POA. A stroke, an upcoming invasive surgery, or even a condition that affects speaking and writing ability can be justifications for setting up a POA.

Financial Involvement: If your parent or family member has difficulty handling their finances, setting up a financial POA may be a good idea. It would give you the authority to pay bills and taxes, manage bank accounts, and ensure that income and savings are correct.

Retiring or Moving Into a Community: Some POAs allow you to buy and sell property on behalf of the principal. This could be a good idea if your parent(s) are getting ready to retire and downsize or if they need to move into an assisted living community. You can focus on selling their real estate while they focus on health and comfort. Some assisted living communities even require a POA to be in place before accepting new residents.

The Earlier, The Better 

Setting up legal documents can sometimes feel like a laborious, timely task, but it’s worth it in the end. Establishing the right power of attorney before you need to will save you and your family time and frustration in the long run.

If your parent or loved one doesn’t currently have a POA in place, now is the time to get with them and a legal team to discuss your options. If they do have one, make sure to regularly update it to reflect all current information. In either situation, we encourage you to have a conversation with your parents or family members about why this essential document is so important.

It’s also important to take special consideration into who your loved one appoints as POA. It should be someone who they trust and is aware of their current situation, wants, and needs.


Offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care throughout San Antonio, Texas, Franklin Park® Senior Living wants to be a resource and guide for older adults and their families as they navigate this time of life. For more information on aging, healthy lifestyles, and senior living, we invite you to visit our Franklin Park® blog.