The timing to set up a power of attorney for an elderly parent varies significantly for each family. However, legal and elder care professionals often recommend setting up a power of attorney sooner rather than later. Ideally, it should be established while your parent is still in good mental and physical health. This allows them to fully participate and understand the details and implications of the power of attorney agreement. They can actively contribute to the decisions regarding their future, which leads to better and more personalized planning.
Take, for instance, a scenario under U.S. law where a parent suffers a sudden debilitating ailment that leaves them mentally incapacitated with no power of attorney for an elderly parent in place. In such circumstances, the lack of a power of attorney could lead you to petition a court for guardianship or conservatorship, which can be a lengthy and costly affair.
However, if a power of attorney for the parent had been established earlier, the process would have been much smoother, with the parent's wishes clearly documented and the ability to act on their behalf readily available. Remember, as per U.S law, for any power of attorney to be valid, the principal — here, the elderly parent — must have the mental capacity to understand the document when they sign it.