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February 10, 2012

Power of Attorney at a nursing home

Power of Attorney signing at a Nursing Home
This was a signing that was doomed from the beginning. I was a relatively new notary, and hadn’t been burned enough to have any sense.  I was like the cat who hadn’t learned to be wary of crossing the road. On the other hand, during my childhood, we had a cat who regularly sat right on the yellow line in the middle of the road.  Let’s just say that she had a good sense of timing.  My timing unfortunately wasn’t so good this time, and neither was my judgement.
A call from a convalescent home
It was a call from a lady in her late fifties.  She seemed like a very normal person.  She was taking care of an elderly lady who had nobody.  Of course, when I got the call, I didn’t have the sense to ask who was going to pay me or how they were going to pay me. This job was so bizarre, that even the most experienced notary has probably never seen anything like it.  So, I went to the nursing home and went in the door.  This place was horrible.  People were screaming and moaning all the time.  Plus the stench was horrible. The nurses didn’t want to open the windows because they didn’t want bacteria coming in.  My news for them is that there would be more bacteria going out than in if they opened the window. 
A walk down the hallway.
“Help me…. help me…. will you help me?”.  An old bedridden lady wanted to be turned over. I am not skilled at pampering the elderly, and the nurses were ignoring these helpless victems.  A crazy old man tried to make conversation with me walking down the hall.  This hallway should be called the hall of desperation. I got to the correct room number finally. If only I had brought an oxygen tank so I wouldn’t have had to breath in there. The lady in her 50’s wanted me to have the elderly lady sign a power of attorney document. Neither one of them had a clue how these documents worked. They needed my help filling it out and I told them that I don’t offer legal advice.  So, I had to wait while these crazy ladies took thirty minutes to do what they should have had prepared long before they called me. I neglected to ask them if their document was complete by the way.
The finished power of attorney
They kept asking me what to do. I kept saying, “you need to talk to an attorney”. I asked them why they had me come all the way down there when they were not ready to sign a completed document.  I had to teach them what a grantor and grantee was.  I told them that in this other place, they should write what the powers the grantor is assigning to the attorney in fact (grantee).  That helped get them through this daunting task.   Finally, the document was done.  The old lady could hardly sit up, let alone write anything.  She wrote some chicken scratch which was not even ledgable. I had to do a signature by X with two subscribing witnesses with her.   Finally, we were done.

 The payment
The attorney in fact got out a checkbook and proceeded to pay me.  I said, that the check didn’t belong to her, but to the old lady.  The lady in her 50’s said that she had been granted the power to do financial transactions for the older lady and would use the old lady’s check book to write me a check.  I didn’t like this idea. I said that I wanted to be paid in cash please. Neither ladies had a dime on them. So, I took the check, and needless to say it bounced. 
Insist on cash
If you do a jail or hospital signing, you will be dealing with very unreliable people a very high percentage of the time. Get your travel fee upon walking in the door before you even meet the signer.  If for any reason you can not complete the signing, you at least have some cash in your pocket.  Knowing how to do a signing by X is a valuable skill that experienced notary publics use if you work with the elderly.

You might also like:

12 questions to ask at hospital notarizations

Rules for notarizing a bedridden person

Do you like your job? A major headache of a hospital job.

Dragging the person’s arm



  1. I have done many POA’s at nursing homes and elsewhere,with few problems. Sounds to me like you may be in the wrong business?

    Comment by Les-CO — February 21, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  2. Just a thought – when I receive calls from people who have persons in rehab or nursing homes, or the person themselves call for notary services, I have them contact the hospital Patient Advocate. Almost every rehab and nursing home has one (or a staff member designated as such). Hopefully you will have already made contact with those advocates where you are willing to perform your services. They will contact you for an appointment time and let you know what items you will be there to notarize. He/she will advise the patient of your fee and to have that sum ready, and to have acceptable ID available and to have the forms filled out. It works wonderfully, and thinking ahead (rather than plunging into the murky pool of uncertainty) will yield an easy signing with a preset time. When you go there, you ask for the Advocate who will take you to the patient and also act as a witness if necessary. I have six rehab / nursing hospitals I deal with here in Albuquerque and it is very smooth, and a nice source of secondary income.

    Comment by Ralph Wedertz — February 23, 2012 @ 7:50 am

  3. I have done many signings in hospitals and/or nursing hones. I have to have a witness for any transaction. Either from hospital staff or a family member. So far, so good!!

    Comment by Connie Kuest — February 24, 2012 @ 1:11 am

  4. I ALWAYS tell the person calling what my requirements are, namely what is the document, did an attorney complete it?
    What my fee is and it must be in cash and I expect to be paid even if the document isn’t signed. And also I ask if the person is alert and will be able to answer any questions I have for them and do they have valid ID?

    Comment by Ilene Seidel — February 24, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  5. I have notarized some POA’s in a nursing home that my mother was once in. I still do just to help people there out, I am in a very rural area and know how difficult it can be having someone in the nursing home and trying to deal with their finances as well. I just usually ask for a nominal fee to cover my gas to get there and what ever cash they have on hand i accept. And I ask who ever i speak to fill out the form . some people do not have the money to pay an attorney and have some trouble with filing out the standard form so I help fill in the blanks if need be but make sure to tell them that i can not give them any legal advise. Most often staff members are willing to be witness and also a good ID for person in nursing home along with wrist band; sometimes the elderly in nursing home have let their photo ID expire. I still record the ID in my journal and I also record the other forms of ID used.

    Comment by maryann — March 20, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

  6. That sounded like a very chaotic situation. It is unfortunate that the process of getting a Power of Attorney is left so late when you consider all of the thought that should be going into it. I would certainly hope that the client (the one granting the POA) is always deemed of sound mind before the process begins. Scary to think of what can happen under those circumstances.

    Comment by Nancy@Power of Attorney Ally — March 22, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  7. I have a nursing home in my area, that does not have a notary. Whenever there is a notarization, social services or the person will call me to set an appointment. ID sometimes is not available, either expired or for whatever reason. Credible witnesses are needed, the staff and social services are always happy to assist. I suggest that you always have an open relationship with the staff, get to know them and vise versa, because credible witnesses are needed more than not.

    Comment by notarygal2 — March 29, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  8. Notarization at a nursing home, the # 1 reason that the average citizen would call a notary public that is willing to travel. Almost all are inexperienced in the process and will usually hire the first mobile notary that picks up the phone. From that point on it’s up to the notary to make it work and experience always helps. This assignment cannot be oversimplified because if the meeting is not prequalified to death before it happens, an unsatisfactory result is almost guaranteed.

    Comment by Joe Ewing — June 11, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  9. I know that in California you cannot have someone at the nursing home authorize a power of attorney form. Just a helpful tip

    Comment by poa form — June 25, 2012 @ 3:00 am

  10. Thanks for this information.But I know this term for long time.This blog is useful to new user.

    Comment by Nursing Home Neglect Attorney St Louis — July 5, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  11. I actually know a nurse who got in trouble for signing a POA form in the hospital.

    Comment by obtain poa — July 27, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  12. Every time I do a closing or any notary work in hospital or nursing home the first thing I do when meeting the signor is ask them questions to determine ability to sign. In any medical setting we have more responsibility to make sure the person signing is not under the influence of medication to the extent that another could be taking advantage.

    Always, what is their full name, address, where are you at this time, do you know why I am here, do you know what documents you are signing and why????? If I still have reservations I ask that the attending doctor advise if the patient is competent to sign.

    I have walked on a couple. But these were obvious. One lady was signing a mortgage on her house with funds to be distributed to her son, Who arranged for the mortgage by the way. She thought she was signing a loan on her son’s home as a grantor of the mortgage in case her son defaulted. She obviously refused to sign.

    Another, a “long lost niece” wanted power of attorney for EVERYTHING. Auntie was in a complete doped up daze. Luckily the woman’s nephew from another side of the family walked in. Boy did I get out of there fast. I gave the nephew my card in case he needed me as a witness.

    We do have responsibility and authority. Never assume you are “required” to take a notarization. if you have good cause to suspect, you are probably right. If you have good cause to suspect and go ahead with the notarization you deserve to loose all of your assets.

    Comment by Joan Havens — July 29, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  13. Yes , of course this information is very useful for us and everyone…

    Comment by Nursing Home Neglect Attorney St Louis — September 17, 2012 @ 5:59 am


    Comment by Christopher Hauptmann — December 4, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

  15. I have a question. How do a nursing home allow a family member to sign a power of attorney form when the person is not talking but shakes his head yes or no and has a brain injury and they didn’t have his ID card?

    Comment by Lisa Smith — January 12, 2013 @ 9:25 am

  16. I have two notary assignments I’d like to share.
    1. I was called by a neighbor to come and complete a notary for an elder lady who was a long time friend who needed help. The elderly lady had given her authorization for a power of attorney to handle her financial dealings. As I was speaking to the person about the situation, I ask about identification for the elderly lady and it had expired. I asked who would be available to be a witness to the signing. I was told the traveling nurse who checks on her two times a week would be available and was willing to witness the signing.
    When I arrived the elder lady was quite aware of what was going on and knew everyone in the room. I asked her several questions about the document and saw she was not only ok with moving forward with the signing, but glad to have the help of her neighbor. The traveling nurse was glad to witness. She also knew the neighbor and affirmed the notarization was legitimate.
    When I received a call later from this neighbor regarding another friend who was in a nursing facility she stated, the friend had good days and bad days of coherency. I informed her that unless the person signing the power of attorney was coherent and able to clearly show they wanted this completed; I wasn’t comfortable performing this signing. I never received a call back to complete a signing.
    2. Another occasion I was called to a long term facility by the daughter of elderly patient. I arrived early, so I could talk to the staff and verify the legitimacy of the signing; I spoke to a shift supervisor who knew the patient and daughter. I was informed about the Ombudsman program they have for their patients. The supervisor immediately called for the social worker who came down to meet with the daughter as she came in the door.
    It was explained to the daughter that she would not be able to have the power of attorney completed that day because the Ombudsman had not been contacted. The Ombudsman would set up the appointment for the signing after they had met with her and her mother.
    The daughter’s response was she could take her out of the facility any time if she wanted too. She then started pacing as she wanted to have this POA signed/notarized that day. One of her other comments was she would take her mother on a day trip and go directly to the bank.
    I found out during the discussion with the staff is the elderly patient had come into some money and the daughter wanted access to it. I had a weird feeling as soon as I walked into the facility. I told her I would not be able to complete this signing as long as her mother was living in this facility. Take the time to speak to the staff. They sometimes know what needs to be happening to protect their patient!!

    Comment by Tammy Booth — September 25, 2013 @ 12:58 am

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