Why Establishing Power Of Attorney Is So Important For Senior Health Care
While a number of estate planning documents are important to have set up for your life, some are more important in terms of ensuring that we secure adequate health care as we age. These include your advance directive, the do not resuscitate order, guardianship documents, health care proxy, living will, physician order (for life-sustaining treatment), and power of attorney.
Living Wills, Advance Directives, Do Not Resuscitate Orders
Living wills are also known as advance directives, physician orders for life-sustaining treatments, and/or do not resuscitate orders. In a nutshell, this document outlines which procedures you do and do not want to occur in the event of an emergency or end-of-life event. Some examples of issues it might address including whether and under what circumstances you want to be transported to the emergency room, if you want a feeding tube placed, etc.
Health Care Proxies & Power Of Attorney
In these circumstances, the health care proxy designates who may act on your behalf in terms of health care decisions. Power of attorney documents can also address health care issues, as well as financial matters. All of these documents essentially designate who you trust to make important decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them on your own.
Durable power of attorney, in particular, should be established sooner rather than later. In fact, durable power of attorney can and should be set up as soon as we turn 18. Health care documents in particular need to be organized early, especially if there is a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia in the family. By the time someone develops these conditions, they cannot typically write a power of attorney because they could be designated as legally incapable. Waiting until someone has a diagnosis is waiting too long, because, at that point, there are concerns over competency.
Given that, for seniors, conditions can sometimes deteriorate quickly, getting the power of attorney designation is incredibly important for avoiding an individual into a guardianship. A guardianship arises when someone is already unable to make decisions for themselves and there is no power of attorney in place. Guardians have absolute power of appointment through the courts so, for example, they can place someone into an assisted care facility, whereas a power of designee cannot. Therefore, this person must be someone that the individual has a significant amount of trust in.
Choosing the Right People to Work With
When it comes to choosing each of these individuals, most people choose a family member; however, there are also professionals who can be hired for these roles and responsibilities, if that is a better option.
Who you work with to get all of these important instruments in place is very important. If you live in Florida, contact our experienced estate planning attorneys at the office of Gierach and Gierach, P.A. today to find out more about our services.