“My mother didn’t want to put a Power of Attorney document in place because she didn’t want anyone to make decisions for her.” “My father doesn’t have a Living Will because he wasn’t comfortable talking about end of life issues.” These comments are common. Making decisions about who we want as our decision maker if we can’t make our own decisions is difficult. No one wants to think that they won’t be able to make their own decisions. Most people do not feel comfortable talking about end of life issues, death or dying. As difficult and uncomfortable as they can be, these conversations are necessary.
Before you are unable to make decisions, you can empower a person of your choosing with the authority to act on your behalf under a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney documents is a legal form in which you nominate someone else with the authority to make certain decisions and act on your behalf. The person to whom you give these powers is called an “agent” and you are called the “principal”.
If you do not choose an agent under a Medical Power of Attorney and you need a medical decision maker, you may end up with a Guardian. The Guardian is appointed by a judge and may or may not be the person you would have chosen to be in that role. The Guardian may not know what decisions you would have made if you had the ability to make them. The same is true for your finances. If you do not choose an agent under a Durable Power of Attorney and your need someone to handle your financial affairs, you may end up with a Conservator. The judge will select a person to serve as Conservator. This person may or may not have been the person you would have chosen to be in that role, and they may not know how you would handle your finances if you had been able to do so.
Equally important is the Living Will. This document directs the medical providers and your medical decision maker how you would like your end of life issues to be managed. The document can be as detailed as you like and give instruction on anything you think is important regarding your care and end of life decisions. Although an attorney can draft your Living Will, you can also use a form such as Five Wishes to make you desires known. No matter how you do it, make sure that your family knows your wishes and make sure you write it down.
It’s important that your chosen loved ones have the authority to make decisions in your behalf when the time comes. You definitely don’t want the courts deciding who will choose your Care Professional. A trusted, Life Care Professional can help you or your family get the best care and quality of life possible.