Everyone – repeat after me – everyone – who is at least 18 years old, needs a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA).
What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A HCPOA is a type of health care directive. It gives directions (directives) on what your wishes are for your health care if you are ever too ill to communicate your wishes for yourself. When you create this document, you name someone you trust (an “agent”) to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. In the case of an elderly parent, this document will also give the named agent the right to speak to the medical staff. With today’s privacy laws, most medical staff will not speak to you regarding your parents care if they haven’t been given express permission by your parent to do so.
A HCPOA must be signed (and notarized) while one is still competent. HCPOA documents can be set up to take effect immediately, or only in the case of your becoming incapacitated. You do not have to see an attorney to have a HCPOA prepared. Most health care providers (doctors, hospitals, nursing homes) have the forms available and will help you to complete them.
Many people also have a living will. A living will is also a type of health care directive. The living will states what type of life sustaining treatments you want provided, or withheld, if you are actively dying. The point of these procedures would be to postpone death.
I understand why my parents need a HCPOA, but why does everyone need one?
Laws differ state to state regarding who, in the event you are incapable of making your own decisions, has the right to make health care decisions for you.
In some states, the first relative the medical staff is able to contact is allowed to make decisions for you if you have no known HCPOA. So picture that. Your spouse is out of town and you are in an accident and unable to communicate your wishes. The staff attempts to contact your adult children and your…