My brother, who I call Dustin in this blog, suffers from schizophrenia and lives in a group home in the St. Louis area. I also have a sister, who I will call Belladonna. She is in her 60s, single, and retired. She has nothing to do but meddle in family business. She believes that members of the family are obligated to extend themselves to provide extraordinary levels of care for other family members like Dustin, but she always has a reason why she should not be bound by those same obligations.
She likes to take Dustin out of the group home for a weekend, take him to her house, and make him do yard work. She believes Dustin owes her the labor in return for her hospitality, which he didn’t ask for. He doesn’t like Belladonna, but he’s not capable of refusing.
Dustin is getting older, and there will be inevitable health issues. To prevent Belladonna from taking command of his medical needs, another sister and I arranged for me to obtain medical power of attorney for Dustin. It was a strategic move; I never thought it would be a problem.
Once a year, the staff of the group home has a conference call with me, in which they describe Dustin’s medication, his diet, his activities and any incidental needs he may have. During the year, they also call me if there are any changes, any disciplinary actions, or any special requests (like pocket money for a field trip).
I always assumed that my medical power of attorney would continue in this manner until Dustin suffered some kind of major medical problem, and I would be called to determine whether or not to unplug the respirator.
Last week, Dustin was attacked by another resident and suffered some bruises. They took him to the hospital to be examined. The group home called me and gave me his room number. The hospital, informed of my power of attorney, contacted me to explain his condition and treatment.
They discovered that Dustin had a urinary tract infection, and required my permission to perform a cystoscopy procedure. “What’s that?” I asked.
“We insert a camera into his penis so that we can inspect the bladder for cysts,” I was told.
I reluctantly agreed to the procedure. It had never occurred to me that medical power of attorney would require me to make decisions that would cause Dustin to hate me more than he hates Belladonna. Suddenly yard work doesn’t look so bad.