Understanding the Durable Power of Attorney

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Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Finances

What happens if you should suddenly have a life-threatening emergency? You are unable to talk and unable to tell the medical professionals what your wishes are. The medical personnel have taken an oath to do everything possible to save you. They may give you medical attention you do not want.

As you look to the future it is important to put safeguards in place to make sure your wishes are carried out through the rest of your life. There are things you can do at any age to put your wishes in writing and designate someone to follow your decisions in case you are unable to do so.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOA) enables you to designate another person, called the attorney-in-fact (agent), to act on your behalf regarding healthcare issues. It is important you pick an agent who understands what your wishes are, and promises to follow you guidelines. Some people pick family members, others pick a friend. Be sure this person is aware of and agrees to what you are asking them to do. There is a place on the form to designate a second person in case the first one cannot fulfill the responsibility. I feel the second person should be someone younger than you are. I often see DPOAs that list the husband or the wife of the person being admitted to the Sierra View Homes Nursing Care. There are times when that person is too emotionally distraught or unavailable to do the job.

The DPOA not only states who is to be your agent but also states what your wishes are regarding end-of-life issues. Do you want to be kept alive no matter what?

You can state what limitations of treatment you want. Be specific with timelines of treatment procedures and when it is time to discontinue them.

The DPOA can be prepared and is filed away for future use or you can have it be in affect right away. It is important to have this document in your doctor’s office and with the person who will be acting at your agent. Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and doctors respect the DPOA for Healthcare.

You can find the form for the DPOA for Healthcare online, in your local nursing homes or you can have a lawyer draft one for you. After you complete the form, two witnesses must watch you sign it. These two witnesses must have no direct interest in how long you live. It should be two friends rather than two family members. Once the signatures are in place the document is legal. If you would prefer, you could have the document signed with a notary. When you use a notary you do not need witnesses. There is a different procedure that must be followed when you are a resident in a nursing home. There is a law that states the DPOA must be completed in the presence of an Ombudsman. The Ombudsman serves as a neutral third party to ensure the resident in the nursing home is making the choices of their own free will.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

What happens if you cannot take care of your financial obligations because you have a serious health issue or struggle to understand all the bills? There is a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances to name an attorney-in fact (agent) to act on your behalf. Your agent is given the ability to handle your financial affairs. It is important to state in your document if you want your agent to handle your affairs on an ongoing basis or for a short period of time, immediately, or in the future. You can limit what your agent can do for you. But keep in mind that if you become unable to continue handling your affairs the limitation may cause problems.

It is important you find an agent, who can and wants to handle the task. This person needs to be someone you can trust, who keeps good records and will be around for an extended period of time. Talk to the person you have chosen so that they understand what you expect of them. Be sure they understand what their responsibility will be. The DPOA for finances should be on file where you do business.

At Sierra View Homes Retirement Community, I have seen how difficult it is when the resident has no documentation explaining what his/her end of life wishes are. Often families are emotional or in disagreement with each other when it comes to making difficult but necessary decisions. Residents who have completed a DPOA for Healthcare have already expressed what their wishes are and have designated someone to follow those directions. Some of the guidelines may not be what the family members want but they can follow through knowing this is what my loved one wants.

The fact is, we are all living longer and statistics show that many of us will have some form of disability in the future. I encourage everyone to take steps to ensure your wishes are documented. Talk with someone you trust to determine what your wishes are and who you want to act as your agents. Then get the DPOA for Healthcare completed. Likewise think about your finances and who you would like to help you if you could no longer take care of your own finances. Then get that DPOA done too. Both forms are good until you decide to change them. It gives you peace of mind to have some of those hard decisions determined.