One of my client Vicky calls to ask for advice regarding her aging father living in North Dakota in a nursing home. Stepmother rarely visits Dad in the nursing home and daughter would like to bring Dad to Washington so she can help care for him. Vicki relates that in a previous conversation when she had suggested the move, her dad had raised concerns over not being able to see his wife and thus refused the move. Stepmom has the power of attorney over Dad and may not be cooperative. Dad has been married to stepmom for several years.
Here is my advice to Vicky, you are dealing with a sticky wicket. I admire your dedication to your father. But the fact is that so long as your dad has any capacity to understand the issue and form an opinion about it, you will have no say-so. This is about your dad, not you. Your dad made the decision to marry your stepmom and give her the authority to make decisions on his behalf if he became incapacitated. People do strange things. As hard as it is for you to see your dad alone in the nursing home without visits from your stepmom, that is the choice your dad has made. Legally, you can seek guardianship over your dad, but guardianship will be granted only if you are able to show that your stepmom is negligent in her duties as agent under the power of attorney to your dad. Not visiting your dad regularly may not be enough for you to be successful.
My advice would be to discuss this issue with your dad and stepmom and propose that you are willing to relieve your stepmom of the overwhelming responsibility of caring for your dad. I am sure that somewhere deep down, your stepmom knows that she is not being a good support person and may be willing to give up her role as agent under power of attorney. If that does not work, I would have you think hard about your legal right to seek guardianship. Unless your dad approves and will not suffer from losing his ability to see your stepmom, I would advise against it. What is the point of moving your dad if he is going to be miserable? He will likely resent your involvement and die a broken-hearted man. Resolve yourself to visiting your dad as often as you can and letting him know how special he is. And keep working on a solution that is acceptable to your stepmom as well.
Next, should you decide to move your dad, involve a care manager from the start to help you understand your options about his care. If you are willing to bring him to your home, the care manager will assist in developing a care plan that will allow this to happen without becoming overly burdensome to you alone. If living at home is not an option, the care manager will guide you through the process of selecting an appropriate housing alternative that will address your dad’s needs and resolve your concerns.