Elder Care Planning and Emergency Directives
If you were unable to make decisions about your financial affairs or health care, who would you want to step in for you? How would they know your preferences and goals? And how would medical professionals know the extent and type of treatments you would prefer? Fortunately, with careful estate planning, you can outline your preferred choices in legal documents that ensure your desires are honored. You can designate persons to have power of attorney to act on your behalf, create a living will to specify your medical preferences, and use a health care advanced directive to assure that your care is provided in the way you desire.
Powers of Attorney
If you should become ill or disabled and be unable to make decisions for your care, you can still maintain a good level of control by appointing a trusted person who will make decisions according to guidelines you provide for them. Since it is not possible to anticipate every situation in the instructions in your living will, giving someone power of attorney to speak for you is important. They can decide such things as what type of care you should receive, what medical facilities and medical professionals will treat you, when treatment should be provided or withdrawn, and many other issues. And you can give this person as much or as little authority in decision making as is comfortable for you. A health care power of attorney document, drawn up with your input and the skill and guidance of your elder care attorney, will be the go‐to source for decision making. Knowing that your power of attorney has been authorized to make decisions on your behalf will provide comfort and support to your loved ones in a difficult time.
Another power of attorney document names a person who would make financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Your financial power of attorney provides guidance and authority for the person you specify to handle your business affairs if you are disabled by illness, injury, or advanced mental deterioration.
A living will is a legal document that sets forth your preferences or goals for medical care in the event that you cannot make decisions for yourself. It would specify your desires in the areas of medical intervention, hydration and nutrition, and other life‐prolonging treatments; resuscitation; and pain management. In the event of your serious terminal illness, injury, or debilitating mental state, would you want your life prolonged with artificial means of respiration, with dialysis or blood transfusion, non‐curative drug treatment or surgery? Would you want to have external hydration and nutrition which would prolong your life in a vegetative state? If your heart stops, would you want medical professionals to administer CPR, or would you prefer death to happen naturally? Although you may decide against any of the so‐called “heroic measures,” you would probably still prefer to be kept comfortable and pain‐free. In other words, you would opt for palliative care. These are issues you might address in a living will which would provide guidelines for your loved ones and medical professionals entrusted with your care. As your attorney specializing in elder law, Glenn A. Deig will provide you with the living will forms and guidance to prepare this important legal document.
Health Care Advance Directives
Your health care advance directive, specifying your desires for medical care and the person who will be authorized to make decisions for your care, becomes effective when one or more doctors certify that your medical or mental condition makes you unable to make decisions for yourself. Since you cannot anticipate when this might happen, it is important to have the original documents in a safe place and provide copies to family members and medical professionals who would ultimately be involved in your care. According to Indiana statute, you should provide your advance care directives with the Indiana Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) form when you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This document provides guidance for all healthcare providers and can be modified if you change your mind about treatments or if the diagnosis changes.