It is not uncommon for adult children to recognize that an elderly parent is a hazard to him or herself. Mom may wander without realizing it, or Dad may regularly forget to turn the stove off.

If you fear for your aging parent’s safety while he or she is home alone, you may wish to place him or her in a nursing home. However, your parent will probably refuse, leaving you to wonder, can you force the issue?

Forcing the issue through guardianship

According to AgingCare, “forced guardianship” is a thing, but petitioning for it is a time consuming and expensive process. In Pennsylvania, guardianship requires proof that the individual has a condition or disability which partially or totally impairs his or her capacity to make and communicate decisions regarding his or her physical health and safety and financial well-being. Medical evidence is required.

The law favors the least restrictive alternative, which means a power of attorney prepared by your parent when he or she had capacity may be found to be sufficient to enable the agent to make these decisions on a parent’s behalf.

Forcing the issue through a power of attorney

A medical power of attorney may give the agent the ability to make decisions on the principal’s behalf, even if the principal does not agree with them. However, the agent cannot force the principal to stay in the nursing home. In fact, the principal can revoke the power of attorney. This is when guardianship may need to be sought. A permanent plenary guardianship can take away the parent’s right to make medical and placement decisions or to handle finances.

Forcing the issue, period

Finally, it is important to note that forcing a parent to move into a nursing home, or any other type of care facility, can affect your relationship with your parent as well as with other family members. It can be helpful to try to work out these matters ahead of time by having family meetings, seeking assistance from an elder law attorney or even participating in mediation.