How To Prepare Legal Documents For Seniors
The preparation of living wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies is extremely important for everyone over the age of 18. Dying may not be an issue any of us wants to think about. However, if you have been through one of these cases, you cannot deny the importance of those around you having specific direction on your decisions.
Advance directives (living wills, powers of attorneys, and health care proxies) are legal documents that express an individual’s wishes with regard to medical decisions. They are intended to provide direction to a designated “agent” to speak on behalf of a person who is unable to speak for himself.
An agent under an advance directive has legal authority to make any decisions and take any actions for the individual who appointed them. It is important for an individual to appoint a trusted person to speak for him when he is unable to speak for himself with respect to medical and end-of-life decisions. Once that person is appointed, it is vital that the individual explains his directions as to the type of medical care he does or does not want.
The format and form of advance directives vary by state. Consultation with an attorney is critical to address the legal nuances, personal preferences, and state differences. When drafting advance directives, an individual’s wishes for health care and end-of-life decisions must be specifically addressed to assure that they will be carried out. This includes following religious preferences, personal preferences, and preferences for or against specific medical procedures. Considering the significance of these decisions, it is important to appoint an agent who will follow the individual’s directions even if family members, medical professionals, or friends disagree.
Things to Consider While Planning Advance Directives
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) advises consumers to consider five key items when speaking with an elder law attorney about a living will, health care power of attorney, and health care proxy:
1. Who will serve as your Agent for Health Care? Who will serve as the alternate?
2. Are there certain medical treatments or pain control measures you want or don’t want?
3. Do you wish to take or refuse any medication that may reduce or eliminate the ability to communicate?
4. Do you have any particular directions regarding specific health care facilities, religious preferences, disposition of your body, donation of bodily parts for transplant or research, etc.?
5. What directions will you provide related to end-of life decisions specifically regarding:
if you can no longer eat, drink, or breathe on your own
if you cannot function independent of machines
if you are confined to bed
if you have no cognitive ability
For more information about elder law attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, visit www.naela.org.