Home > Uncategorized > Tip of the Week: Advance Directives

Tip of the Week: Advance Directives

Image courtesy phasinphoto @ www.freedigitalphotos.netAdvance directive, healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney, living will.  All terms for the same, if not similar, documents that no one should be without.  Basically, having such a document in place specifies not only what you want (or don’t want done) to you in the case of serious injury or illness, but also who has the right to make those kind of decisions on your behalf.  Each state will have its own form for doing so, with minor variations.

Before my husband’s recent death, we each carried statements giving each other the right to do just that.  (I am just now reminded that I need to designate a new DPOA since my husband is no longer able to fulfill that role.) Most people that I deal with in my work have advance directives, these days.  And that’s a good thing.

But here’s something that a lot of people haven’t considered.  What happens if your designee becomes ill himself, and is unable to fulfill his duties? Here’s an example.  A few years ago, I was working in a long-term care facility.  A woman in her 90s, with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, was placed with us for temporary respite, while her daughter was in the hospital herself.  Not long after, Mom had a crisis that required a decision to be made with regards to some serious complication related to her disease.  However, the one person who had the legal right to make that decision was herself incapacitated, and in intensive care.  A bit of legal wrangling ensued, so that another family member could be enabled legally to make the necessary decision, and everything turned out well in the end.

The answer to this problem is to designate a second person, or alternate, who can make decisions for you in case your first choice cannot.  As my husband and I used to say, what if we both were in the same car accident?  Or, what if he was traveling and couldn’t be reached?  As always, one hopes that it won’t be necessary to make that call, but you never know.

Oh, and another thing.  A lot of married couples assume that their spouse can automatically make any decisions for them that need to be made.  But that isn’t necessarily so.  Most states require a legally designated proxy, whether it be the spouse or not. And, sometimes, perhaps the spouse isn’t the right choice.  That’s something that couples need to discuss between themselves.

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