A health care directive can become very important, if you should find yourself incapacitated. That is why it is part of a comprehensive estate plan, according to the McPherson Sentinel in “Advance health care directives important to all adults.”
Documenting your wishes about future health care lets a cognitively healthy person express their wishes with a clear perspective. Unfortunately, only one in four American adults has their advance health care directive in place. Many wait to begin the planning process, until they are in their 50s or 60s. The problem is, life doesn’t have a plan. At any time in life, tragedy can strike. A serious illness or an accident can occur, and leave the family wondering what the person would have wanted.
The most common advance directives including a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, and pre-hospital do not resuscitate directive, known also as a “DNR.” California also recognizes a POLST (Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) which, because it is a medical order, must be signed by the doctor to be valid.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name a person to make medical decisions for you, in the event you cannot. They are also referred to as a “Medical Power of Attorney” or “Health Care Agent.”
This is different than a Durable Power of Attorney, which gives a person the right to act as another person’s agent and conduct all business and financial matters on their behalf.
It’s very important that the people you name to fulfill these roles are told that they have been named. They need to fully understand what your wishes are, what kinds of treatments are and are not acceptable for you, your preferences for doctors and where you would like the treatment to take place.
The person selected will need to be trustworthy and have the ability and willingness to communicate your wishes, even if family members don’t agree with your choices. They will need to follow your wishes, even if they are not the same as their own.
Keep family dynamics in mind. If a younger sibling is selected to be your health care agent and they have been dominated throughout their life by an older sibling, will your wishes be honored, or will they become the subject of an extended argument?
A Living Will is a document that details the type of care you want to receive at the end of life. It explains your wishes about accepting life-sustaining procedures, like being placed on a ventilator, receiving artificial nutrition and hydration, if at least two physicians deem your condition to be terminal.
These documents should be prepared for you as part of your overall estate plan, with the guidance of an estate planning attorney. Be aware that the laws vary from state to state, so you’ll want to work with an attorney who knows your state’s laws. If you relocate to another state, you will need to have your estate plan updated to ensure that it is still valid.
Reference: McPherson Sentinel (April 17, 2019) “Advance health care directives important to all adults”