Power of Attorney’s restricting visits

Sgt. Sheri Tate, DRPS

Sgt. Sheri Tate, DRPSBy Sergeant Sheri Tate/Durham Regional Police Service

My office, The Senior Support Unit, receives many calls regarding Powers of Attorney (POA)  trying to restrict or prevent access to the elderly adult. There are two scenarios that the police are most often called: the senior citizen lives in long-term care, and the senior citizen lives with the POA.

In the first scenario, the POA will often tell administrators of long-term care facilities not to allow certain people to visit and the POA expect the homes to call police if people on the “do not visit list” show up. The point here is the POA do not have the authority to prevent visitors, nor do the long-term care facilities unless there is an identified safety concern. If there is a safety concern, the POA should obtain a court order to prevent access. Often, the POA will claim the senior is incompetent and the POA has the authority to restrict certain visitors.

Just because a senior is in a long-term care facility does not mean he or she is incapable of making decisions surrounding visits or outings. A senior may not have the capacity to make housing or financial decisions, but the senior will usually have the capacity to decide who to have as visitors. There is no such thing as global incapacity.

Further, under the Substitute Decisions Act, a Power of Attorney must encourage socializing and must respect current and past prior capable wishes, even if it is with family members the POA doesn’t like.

How do the Senior Support Unit and front line police handle this situation?  First, we collect the information and a history about the situation from both sides. Then the police will speak to the senior in private and ask if he or she wants to visit with the person on the “do not visit list.” The police will also ask about their past relationship and will ask about any identified safety concerns. A senior may choose to visit with an abusive child against the POA’s wishes and the senior has this right provided he or she understands the consequences of their decision.  Further, the senior may choose to go for an off-site visit away from the LTC facility. Again, if the senior is competent to understand the risks involved in leaving the facility, then the senior cannot be prevented from leaving the premise.

When the senior lives with the POA and the POA is stating people from the “do not visit list” are not allowed inside their house or on their property, the police cannot force the POA to allow these visits. However, police will still speak to the senior alone. The police will advise the POA about their duty to encourage socializing and visits. In this case, the visits will usually happen away from the POA’s residence.

Police are often called to sort out these family dynamics and it can be difficult to know what to do as each situation is unique. We strive to make sure the senior is capable of making the decision, understands the consequences and that the senior’s decision is respected by the POA.

For further questions on this topic, please contact, Sgt. Sheri Tate #632 at 905-579-1520 ext. 5624 or PC Dawna Murray #954 at 905-579-1520 ext. 5617.