As you grow older, it is time to think seriously about health care decisions. The wisest step seniors can take is to prepare for their future health care by considering some important legal issues.
What Is A Durable Power Of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney for health care is also referred to as a health care proxy. When you appoint someone to this position, he will have the authority to make health care decisions in your behalf. If your illness is to the extent that you cannot make your own decisions, your proxy will be able to speak for you.
Complications can arise if you do not have a health care proxy. If you have not granted anyone this authority, the decisions may be up to your health care providers. If this occurs, your doctor may not know your wishes, or he may ignore your wishes and do what he feels is best.
You should put careful thought into choosing a health care proxy. While you should reasonably assume the person will be available if his assistance is needed, you also need to know he will abide by your wishes. Before you prepare this document, discuss every aspect of your health care with the person you are considering. You need to know he will respect your decisions, even if he does not agree with them.
Most seniors choose close family members as their durable power of attorney. However, this is not a requirement. If you are not sure a family member will carry out your wishes, or if you have no close relatives, you can appoint a friend, your minister or priest, or any other adult you feel is appropriate.
What Is A Living Will?
A living will covers your end-of-life decisions. Its purpose is limited.
If you become ill or injured to the extent that death is in the foreseeable future, a living will informs your health care providers of your wishes regarding treatment. As examples, you may want your life to be extended as long as possible, even if you are in a coma, or you may object to life-extending procedures such as feeding tubes or breathing tubes.
Whether you want every procedure possible, or a do-not-resuscitate order, your wishes will be clearly stated in a living will.
What Is An Advance Directive?
While an advance directive includes your end-of-life decisions, it covers more information regarding your future health care. You do not have to be near death for an advance directive to come into effect. It can make your wishes clear to the health care providers if you are too ill to communicate.
The advance directive will let health care providers know what you do and do not want regarding medical treatment. Your health care proxy should also be named on your directive. As the directive covers your end-of-life decisions as well as your future health care decisions, you do not necessarily need a living will if you have an advance directive.
For Seniors Making Health Care Decisions
If you are uncomfortable with these topics, it is easy to make mistakes. While living wills and advance directives are often available in hospitals, you do not have to use the forms provided by your hospital. Although forms are available online, they may not be exactly what you want.
As advance directives and living wills are legal documents, consider asking your attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can prepare the documents to meet your specifications. Your lawyer can also help you find witnesses to make the documents legal and valid.
Both living wills and advance directives must be honored by health care providers. If the provider in charge of your care does not agree with or approve of your decision, he is obligated to turn your care over to a provider who will abide by it.
Do not allow anyone to pressure you into naming them as your health care proxy. This is a decision you need to make for yourself. You do not have to appoint a family member if you believe someone else would be more reliable.
The best time to address these issues is when you are reasonably healthy and sound of mind. This can greatly reduce your risk of someone attempting to override your decisions when you cannot speak on your own behalf.
Your future health care decisions and end-of-life decisions should not be anyone’s decisions but your own. When you have an attorney to assist you with these documents, they will be completely binding by law. You will be able to update or revise the documents any time you choose, but no one will be able to ignore or override your decisions even if you are at the end of your life or severely incapacitated. With these documents, and a suitable health care proxy, you can have peace of mind.Read more