Comprehensive Planning. Lifelong Solutions.

Parents May Now Delegate Care Authority of a Child

By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

Many parents travel for work or otherwise send children to stay with a relative for temporary points in time, entrusting others with the care of their children. The concern has always been whether there is any authority to delegate parental decisions to such persons temporarily caring for the child. Until recently, there was no statutory authority that would permit another to step into the shoes of a parent for important care decisions.

Last week, a law permitting parents, or legal custodians, of a child to temporarily delegate care authority to another person became effective. Such delegation must be made in the form of a properly executed power of attorney, signed by both parents if they exercise joint custody, and may not exceed a period of 180 days. Service members on active duty have been exempted from the 180 day limit, but shall not be permitted to extend such time in excess of 30 days beyond the term of active duty service. The agent shall exercise parental or legal authority on a continuous basis for no less than 24 hours and without compensation for the intended duration of the power of attorney. The delegation may be revoked by any person who signed the power of attorney at any time.

The law specifically allows for the delegation of powers regarding the custody, care, and property of the child, but excludes the power to consent to marriage or adoption of the child, the performance or inducement of an abortion on or for the child, or the termination of parental rights to the child. Further, such delegation of does not modify the legal rights, obligations, or authority of a parent or legal custodian.

Another important exception to the law was implemented to prevent parents from delegating authority for the primary purpose of enrolling a child in a school outside of the child’s jurisdiction. The law specifically states that a power of attorney shall be invalid “if executed for the primary purpose of enrolling the child in a school for the sole purpose of participating in the academic or interscholastic athletics programs provided by that school or for any other unlawful purpose.” A violation of this section is punishable under the law.

As Kit Kat: Arctic Fox’s Journey

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, was there really an Arctic fox who journeyed from Norway to Canada?

Kit Kat: Yes, amazingly, it did. The female fox was a coastal or blue fox. She had a tracking collar on, and that is how the journey was recorded. This represents a trip of more than 2,175 miles in only 76 days. She began on the Svalbard Archipelago of Norway in 2018, and was tracked to a remote island in northern Nunavut, Canada. This event was reported in Polar Research, and published by the Norwegian Polar Institute during the last week of June 2019.

How was such a trip possible? Well, this particular breed of fox is very hearty, but it is still an amazing story. It was only possible during winter, when the Arctic ice freezes over and the 2 continents are connected. At first, researchers were skeptical. How could this be? Eva Fuglei, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said, “We didn’t think it was true. Could the fox have been found dead, the collar taken off and now aboard a boat?” That possibility was ruled out when they realized it would not be possible for a boat to travel through the ice that far north at that time of year. When tracking data was downloaded from the collar, it appears the fox left the Svalbard Archipelago on March 26, 2018 and reached Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada 2.5 months later. In one day, she logged in about 96 miles! Ms. Fuglei  commented, “This is, to our knowledge, the fastest movement rate ever recorded for this species.”

Why would the fox have set out on such a journey? Researchers suspect it was motivated by lack of food in her original habitat or some threat that existed there. The fox’s migration also points to the importance of sea ice for some species. With global warming, the way of life for some species may be significantly altered. (Megan Specia, “An Arctic Fox’s Epic Journey: Norway to Canada in 76 days,” The New York Times, July 2, 2019)

Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019. Filed under Senior Law News.

How To Be An Advocate For a Loved One In a Nursing Home

By Emily Martin, Esq.

If you have a family member or loved one who is unable to live at home any longer, you may feel anxious about leaving them alone with strangers caring for them. Not only can it be confusing and difficult for someone to move into a nursing home, but you may be worried that your loved one will not be able to speak for himself if they become a victim of abuse or neglect.

While most facilities are safe and provide a protective environment for those who cannot care for themselves, unfortunately sometimes that is not the case. For example, in January 2019, the news broke that a 29-year-old woman in a vegetative state who was living in a nursing home gave birth at the facility. At the time, staff at the facility was shocked – no one knew she was pregnant. Later, it came to light that a worker at the facility had been sexually abusing the patient for quite some time.

Although abuse to this extent is rare, the fact remains that assault, sexual or otherwise, is a crime that often goes unreported in nursing homes. Because of a cognitive impairment, those who suffer from dementia are the most likely victims of this type of assault – whether it comes from other residents, staff, and even complete strangers visiting the facility. So how can you protect your loved one from becoming a victim?

Evaluate the facility

When you begin to research nursing homes, visit them in person. Look around and ask questions. How personable is the staff? Are there enough staff members so that each resident receives adequate supervision? What is the quality of the management of the facility? Ask questions about training for the staff and whether all staff members, including volunteers and vendors, are required to have criminal background checks. If you have misgivings after receiving the answers to these questions or if you are unable to obtain answers at all, there is a good chance that it is not the right place for your loved one.

Check for signs of abuse

If a loved one has been physically abused, you may notice unexplained bruising or blood. They may withdraw from social activities and interactions and could possible react differently toward their abuser. They may begin suffering from nightmares or night terrors. Any of these are red flags that could indicate that your loved one is a victim of abuse.

Know your loved one’s rights

If a nursing home receives funds from Medicaid (which nearly all do), then it is subject to federal regulations with regard to the management of nursing homes. Under federal law, when two or more relatives of nursing homer residents meet, the facility is required to give them a place to meet. They also must respond to their recommendations or concerns within a certain time period. These “family councils” can be powerful tools. If a facility knows that family members are active advocates, they will have more incentive to provide proper care or their residents.

Reach out to your long-term care ombudsman

Each geographical area has a long-term care ombudsman whose role it is to serve as an advocate who can investigate complains for residents in long-term care facilities. If you feel that your loved one is being abused or neglected, a long-term care ombudsman can be a powerful tool in helping you get answers about your loved one’s care. They have the ability to investigate the conditions at the facility and make sure that the residents are receiving the care they need. An ombudsman can be a powerful ally for family members who live out of the area or who are unable to be physically present to advocate for their loved ones.

Call Adult Protective Services

Another possible resource for victims of abuse or neglect is Adult Protective Services (APS). APS has the ability to investigate claims of abuse and can offer a wide range of protective services, including legal intervention to protect adults who are being abused. In Virginia, APS is managed by the local Department of Social Services.

The most important thing you can do for a loved one in a nursing home is to make sure they have an advocate – someone who can recognize signs of abuse or neglect and act appropriately to remedy the situation if it does occur. While the majority of residents in nursing homes are not being abused or neglected, it is crucial to know what the signs are – and how to act if it happens to your loved one.

Ask Kit Kat: Helping Pelicans

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about how pelicans are treated when they get fishing line injuries?

Kit Kat: Well, there is such good news on this subject! There are 4 centers across the country that treat seabirds. One is in Murchsion, Texas, another in Oakland, Oregon, another in Ramona, California, and finally one in Ft.Lauderdale, Florida. The latter is the focus of today’s article. The Florida location is called the South Florida Wildlife Center. Headed by Dr. Renata Schneider, director, there have been great results in treating pelicans which have been caught up either in fishing hooks or fishing line. Since January, the center has treated 6 pelicans successfully which had serious injuries. Another 300 with minor injuries have also been treated. Pelicans have large mouths, so it is easy for them to swallow hooks or get line tangled in their beaks.  When an injury is serious enough to warrant surgery, it requires fluid therapy and pain medication for a period of time after surgery before they can be released back to nature.

Dr. Schneider recommends that to keep seabirds safe, there are some things which can be done by those who fish or who happen to come by a bird in distress. First, never leave fishing line out on a pier or dock. Dispose of it in a trash can that has a covering such as a monofilament recycling canister or bin. These now are available on many piers. Second, keep cutting tables where fish are gutted free of any debris or fish remains. This attracts pelicans/birds which can swallow the remains which may also happen to have a hook left in it. Finally, if a bird is found with a line in its mouth, don’t cut the line. Carefully reel in the bird, and contact a veterinarian or wildlife center for help. Also, never hold a pelican’s beak completely shut. They breathe through their mouths, and if it is kept shut, they won’t be able to breathe. The good thing about pelicans, says Dr. Schneider, is that “they don’t get stressed out around people.” (Kelly L. Williams, “Pelican patients get patched up,” All Animals, June/July/August 2019, p. 14)

Posted on Monday, July 8th, 2019. Filed under Senior Law News.
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