The Other Side of the Mental Health Reality: When a Medical Power of Attorney Can Be a Lifesaver.
Years ago I was asked by the county judge to represent people committed to the mental hospitals against their will. People suffering from Bipolar Disorder or Schizoaffective Disorder often stop taking their medications once they start feeling better. When they stop taking their medications, the anger or depression can reassert itself and the person will sometimes try to commit suicide or harm others. The most common examples are by overdose, walking in traffic intentionally, destroying their apartment or home, or assaulting family members. Adult Protective Services is typically called out and they are taken to the mental hospital to keep them in a safe environment while they try to get them stabilized on their medications again.
This situation is heart rending for those parents of young adults that suffer from severe Bipolar or Schizoaffective Disorder because the parents can tell when their adult child has stopped taking medications and is beginning to act differently. But until they try to harm themselves or others APS won’t get involved. It then becomes a horrible waiting game for the parents as they watch their child descend further into a different and sometimes violent reality.
When a child turns eighteen, the parents lose all rights to commit the child to mental care.
There are two solutions for parents in this situation.
If the condition is severe enough, it may warrant the parents getting guardianship of the young adult.
If the young adult normally takes their medication daily, and only occasionally stops taking it and will spiral out of control, then the parents may want to look into getting a Medical Power of Attorney over the young adult. By signing the Medical Power of Attorney while the young adult is competent and lucid, the parents are granted the power to make mental health decisions for young adult. If there is no Power of Attorney, and the young adult stops taking their medications, the parents are powerless.
Being proactive with a child suffering from Bipolar or Schizoaffective Disorder can save the child’s life.
Final thought: Having a HIPAA form signed by the young adult at the same time allows the parents to see the child’s medical records, allowing them to make an informed decision.