Posted by Gerald Turner –
For any of us that have helped an elder family member with healthcare issues or end of life planning, we have been asked by doctors about healthcare proxies, advance directives, and powers of attorney. We are often asked if we have these documents when seeing our primary care physician even on a routine annual visit. There is a reason they ask. They know how important these documents are and have worked with families who have and have not had these documents prepared BEFORE they were needed.
Most of us periodically have discussions with others about what we want for ourselves should something happen to us. We know who we’d like to make important medical decisions for us should we not be able to make these decisions ourselves. We most likely know who we want to take care of our financial decisions as well.
We don’t always want to think that something will happen to us. Planning for potential catastrophe is something many of us put off for a future time. Elder planning is often put off until we are actually elderly. It is difficult to identify in advance exactly when these documents will be needed. It is recommended that all adults have these documents prepared.
A Healthcare Proxy is someone you designate to make medical decisions for you and arrange your care in circumstances when you can’t make them for yourself. This can be because of a temporary or permanent condition as determined by your doctor.
Advance Directives provide a guide for your health care proxy to consider when making decisions. This document is often called a living will and includes the type of medical treatments you may or may not want to have performed in particular circumstances. It is important to note that this document is not a binding legal document in Massachusetts and is available only as a guide.
A Financial Power of Attorney identifies a person who will take over your financial decisions including access to your accounts when you can no longer handle your own finances.
These documents are not complicated to complete but it is helpful to have an elder law attorney assist to make sure all areas of concern are identified and covered in the documents.