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Power of Attorney: The Powers of Protection

Power of Attorney: The Powers of Protection

A Power of Attorney is an important tool for ensuring the proper treatment of a loved one and preventing cases of nursing home abuse.  There are few legal documents in the U.S. as significant for elderly parents and their children as the Durable Power of Attorney.  A Power of Attorney allows a child, relative, or close friend to help their loved ones under nursing home care by acting in the exterior world on their behalf.  In trusted hands, this legal document makes a world of difference to nursing home residences.

The Power of Attorney grants you enormous power to act on another person’s behalf (often called a “Principal”).  Persons with Power of Attorney can write checks for their Principal, can buy or sell property for their Principal, and can have access to private information, including personal care information important to a legal investigation of a nursing home suspected of neglect or abuse.

Power of Attorney vs. Administrator of an Estate

When a person dies, the legal rights covered by the Power of Attorney disappear.  In order for someone to take care of the deceased person’s affairs, the Court must appoint an administrator.  That person (also called the Executor or Personal Representative) has many of the same rights and responsibilities as the Power of Attorney.  However, an administrator is named by the Last Will and Testament and can be someone entirely different from the person who had Power of Attorney when the deceased was alive.

If a loved one in a nursing home has named you Power of Attorney, it is a good idea to confirm that you are also named as the administrator of that person’s estate.

When Can a Nursing Home Resident Sign a Durable Power of Attorney?

The law requires that someone have a good idea what’s going on around them when signing a Durable Power of Attorney.  This does not mean someone who gets confused can never sign a Will or a Power of Attorney.  We all have our good and bad days.  But because the Power of Attorney may only be signed during a “lucid moment,” it is important to have your mother or father or other loved one under nursing home care take advantage of those better days by talking honestly with them and signing the Power of Attorney forms when you both feel confident in their comprehension.

As attorneys who deal with abuse and neglect in nursing homes, we suggest having the Power of Attorney papers signed before entering the nursing home in order to prevent unfortunate results later down the road.  However, changing a Power of Attorney or assigning one after a resident has been abused or neglected is completely within the resident’s rights, and we encourage you to talk ASAP with your relatives about this legal responsibility. Click here for a Durable Power of Attorney form.

Powers of Attorney from Place to Place

Another consideration to remember is that the laws governing your loved one’s protection are those local and state laws of the nursing home resident, not the person with the Power of Attorney.  For example, if you hold Power of Attorney and live in Arizona but your father stays in a Florida nursing home, Florida laws apply to the nursing home and to the Power of Attorney.  The biggest difference from state to state is whether the form must be notarized and if one or two witnesses are required.  Getting the Power of Attorney notarized and witnessed by two people is sound practice—even if state law does not require it.  The notary’s stamp conveys authority, and the presence of multiple witnesses communicates honesty.

Free Power of Attorney

You can print the free form here.  (Please note: This free service is not intended as legal advice.  You should consult a family lawyer if you have questions about these documents or contact the Consumer Justice Group if you are trying to investigate potential abuse or neglect.)  Make sure to keep your signed, notarized copies with your other important documents in a secure place.  You have an important first step toward protecting your family.  Remember, visiting your loved one is even more important.

Restraints in Nursing Home Abuse

The Six Warning Signs, What They Mean


Nursing homes use restraints in both physical and chemical forms to make residents more “manageable.”  The easiest means of management is to treat patients like prisoners by limiting their mobility.  A negligent nursing home staff’s convenience puts your loved one in their care in danger of strangulation, decubitus ulcers, adverse drug reactions, and reduced bone mass—not to mention the physical discomfort and feelings of frustration and loss of dignity that come when a person with otherwise full mobility is forced to stay seated for hours in a chair or lying in a bed unable to get up to use the restroom or move about.

Examples of Physical Restraints Used in Nursing Homes

Physical restraints involve any method that individuals cannot remove easily and that restricts their freedom to move and to access their body normally.  Some examples of physical restraints include (but are not limited to): leg restraints, arm restraints, vest or jacket restraints, waist belts, hand mitts, cuffs, wheelchair safety bars, bedrails, and lap pillows.

But not all physical restraints tie residents up or lock them down.  Nursing homes also restrain your loved ones by using less obvious physical restraints.  These include tucking a sheet in so tightly that a patient cannot move or placing a wheelchair-bound patient so close to a wall that the wall prevents the patient from rising.  Negligent nursing home workers are continually finding new ways of cutting corners in their care for your loves ones.

The Danger of Nursing Home’s Chemical Restraints

Any nontherapeutic drug that prevents a person from normal mobility should be considered a chemical restraint.  While mood-altering drugs can be useful in restoring good health, psychoactive drugs can be misused as chemical restraints to sedate a patient for the convenience of the nursing home or to discipline someone who is uncooperative.  Such cruel punishment is unfortunately not uncommon.

Pharmaceutical abuse is less apparent as it does not leave bruises or other markings on the skin.  It may also be difficult for the abused to detect.  While abused nursing home residents may suspect they are being drugged, sometimes these residents wait too longer—until major internal injury or death from an adverse reaction with drugs necessary for their health—to have their suspicions tragically confirmed.

Legal Restraints on Restraints

Both chemical and physical restraints must be prescribed by a doctor.  Anyone restrained under medical orders must be very closely monitored.  Personal injury while in restraints is very common, especially for bodies weakened by age.

Outside of emergency situations, restraints should rarely, if ever, be used.  Instead, alternatives to restraints should be used.  These include:

  • Restorative nursing programs, such as walking, eating, toileting, bathing, and involvement in center activity programs to occupy patient’s time and attention.
  • Correct wheelchairs that are in good working order and correct size for patient use.
  • Taped messages from family members to play when patient is agitated.
  • Toileting schedules for patients at risk of falling.
  • Using staff interventions and education to prevent triggering inappropriate behavioral responses from patients.
  • Use of safety devices that trigger an alarm when a wandering patient tries to leave a safe protected environment.

Nursing homes should be safe, caring places for our loved ones to receive decent, dignified care.  There is no reason for your loved one to suffer the humiliation or anxiety of being immobilized by restraints because the nursing home staff wants to make their job easier.

Lawyers for Change

If you believe your loved one has suffered or is presently suffering from unnecessary and abusive nursing home practices, don’t hesitate. Contact the Timothy McCandless at the number listed above for free information and consultation. Our experience nursing home attorneys span the nation providing advice and legal representation to those injured by nursing homes.


Staff Inattention at Nursing Homes

The Six Warning Signs, What They Mean

Staff Inattention

The most common complaint against nursing homes as reported to state and federal agencies is the staff’s failure to respond in a timely manner.  Your loved one is in a nursing home because he or she needs special care and supervision that can’t be found elsewhere.  Staff inattention decreases the comfort and quality in the lives of nursing home residents and increases their risk of serious injury and death.

While they may intend the best for your loved ones, when nursing home staff are too overworked to respond to the call button, problems multiply.  Medication is given too often or, just as bad, not at all.  Patients are left for long periods of time unattended in chairs or beds.  Hygiene suffers.  Weight loss and other signs of serious illness are overlooked.  The patient is ignored or forgotten.

Nursing Homes Are Businesses

Though they are entrusted with the lives and wellbeing of our loved ones, at their core nursing homes remain businesses.  And one way that businesses make a profit is by reducing qualified staff.

When underpaid nursing home staff works overtime to make ends meet, it is harder for them to have the presence of mind necessary for tending to the individual under their care.  And when turnover is high, the long hours wearing on inexperienced staff can have disastrous consequences.

Read the Nursing Home Reports

Reading staff reports is a great way of checking up on how attentive your loved one’s nursing home staff are.  If your mother has been in a coma for the past year but staff has written that she was up and walking around last week as one CBS News article reports one very shocked daughter found, then you know there’s a problem.

Let’s face it: nursing home staff often deal with the dirty side of aging and are directly responsible daily for more lives than most of us.  This stress sometimes this leads some nursing home nurses, aides, and other staff to give patients the wrong kind of attention while it sometimes causes other caregivers to withdraw needed care.

Many people in nursing home care because of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia need constant attention to prevent them from wandering off and getting in harm’s way.  Nursing home facilities must be held accountable when individuals wander off or take the unsafe shortcut of restraints.  When your loved one has been found unattended, staff inattention and laziness is to blame, not the patient.

Being Present at the Nursing Home, Even When You’re Not There

Nursing home residents who are visited often tend to receive better care.  If you can’t visit in person, then by all means call and talk to the people who take care of your loved one.  When you do visit, try to make occasional trips outside of your regular schedule and try to make friends with other residents at the nursing home and ask them about your loved one.  As one ABC News story reports, most negligent abuse occurs because of the low traffic through nursing homes.

Laywers for Change

If you feel someone you love is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, take the few minutes to fill out our contact sheet. Our nursing home abuse lawyers working across the U.S. are experienced in finding justice for our clients. Evaluation of your case is free, and we only charge when you win. Click to speak with an experienced elder law and nursing home neglect attorney.

Make sure your loved one is receiving the treatment they rightfully deserve.


  • The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform offers good advice about what you and your family can do to help prevent abuse and neglect of your loved one in nursing home care.
  • Alice Dembner of The Boston Globe depicts the horrors of one nursing home and the brave families who came together to make a change in one Massachusetts state home.  It gives hope to anyone with a family member in a nursing home to make lasting change in their state.

The Unmentionable (Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes)

The Unmentionable (Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes)

Nursing home sexual abuse, because of the physical and psychological damage the victim suffers, are the hardest stories of nursing home abuse we at the Consumer Justice Group hear and our lawyers bring to trial.  Too often these criminal acts against our clients’ loved ones only come to light after many instances of abuse.  Worse, for every one we prosecute, many more go unvoiced.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Defined

Sexual abuse comes in many forms.  Sometimes the act is an assault, such as forced penetrative acts or fondling.  Other times contact between bodies is not made, such as in abuse cases of sexual harassment or when staff or residents expose themselves to another resident.  Any act of a sexual nature occurring without your loved one’s consent constitutes a form of abuse.

Some common forms of sexual abuse include:

  • Forced nudity
  • Pornographic picture taking or being shown pornographic material
  • Telling inappropriate jokes or stories
  • Unwanted sexual touching (including whipping, pinching, and punching or kissing)
  • Having a resident inappropriately touch or kiss another’s body

Why Sexual Abuse Goes Unreported

There are many reasons why cases of nursing home sexual abuse go unreported.  Often generational beliefs about sex and gender make it difficult for a resident to come forward.  Sometimes the abused feels ashamed.  Sometimes they are unsure of how to define the sexual act, though they know it makes them feel uncomfortable.  Other sexually abused residents feel they have no one to speak to or suffer from dementia and are not believed.

The psychological symptoms following a sexual assault have historically varied considerably among the abused and complicate matters.  Some victims appear paranoid and frantic.  Sometimes the abused remain calm and composed on the surface in a forced attempt to convince themselves that nothing untoward has happened.  Understand that emotional reactions to sexual abuse are varied.  Please do not ignore your loved one’s claims of abuse just because he or she isn’t acting “abused.”  Lend a sympathetic ear and be aware of the physical signs of abuse.

Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse

Some forms of sexual abuse found in nursing homes leave little or no visible marks.  In more physical cases of sexual abuse, the signs can be more apparent.  Still, a resident might try to hide them for any number of reasons listed previously.  Some physical warning signs include:

  • Bruising around breasts, upper abdomen, or inner thigh
  • Bleeding from vagina or anus
  • Presence of a sexually transmitted disease
  • Troubles walking or discomfort when sitting
  • Irritation or itching in genitals

It is important to obtain medical help immediately to document any of these signs.  Elderly persons who experience sexually abuse can suffer serious internal bleeding, an increased risk of infections, and bone damage to the pelvis and hips.

What to do When You are Told about Sexual Abuse

The avenues open for younger victims of sexual assault are not always available to victims in a nursing home.  If a loved one begins a conversation about how they have been made uncomfortable by the actions of a staff member or other nursing home resident, try not to express strong senses of shock or skepticism.  Show concern, encourage the victim to speak, and take notes of the conversation.  Then contact a medical authority immediately afterwards to document what’s been said.  Nursing homes often fail to chart this abuse, so involving the police and doctors outside the nursing home makes good sense.