What are advance medical directives?
Estate planning is simply a matter of getting your affairs in order, and while no one wants to think about dying, it is crucial to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones and ensure your wishes are carried out. It is also essential to have a plan for the type of medical treatment you would like to receive if you are injured in an accident or suffer an illness and become incapacitated. By putting in place a health care proxy, a living will and other documents - also known as advance medical directives, you can plan in advance for the type of treatment you should receive if you cannot make decisions or speak for yourself.
What is a durable power of attorney for healthcare?
This legal document, or healthcare proxy, enables you to select someone you trust to make medical care decisions if you become incapacitated. This person -referred to as your agent, will collaborate with your doctors to ensure the medical care being provided agrees with your wishes. If you do not have this document in place, the court will appoint someone to make these decisions, and their choices may not reflect your wishes. Putting a healthcare proxy in place will give you peace of mind and relieve your loved ones of the burden of going to court to be granted the power to act on your behalf.
What is a living will?
A living will is another advance medical directive that establishes the type of medical care you prefer to receive if you become terminally ill and are not able to make or communicate decisions about end of life treatment. Today, with more people suffering from dementia, one life prolonging measure is to insert a feeding tube, a form of treatment that is now being questioned by doctors and family members alike. A living will can clarify whether such measures should be used.
Other health care documents
For those who are critically ill and do not want to receive extraordinary measures to prolong life, another important document is a do not resuscitate order or DNR. This document is used in the event of a medical emergency and notifies doctors, nurses and other emergency personnel that you should not be kept alive with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Lastly, a HIPAA authorization form, required under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, allows another organization or health care provider to gain access to a patient's medical records and history.
In the end, thinking about becoming ill or incapacitated is not something many are inclined to do. But having advance medical directives in place can ensure you receive the type of medical treatment you prefer when you cannot make decisions for yourself. By engaging the services of an elder law and estate planning attorney, you can protect yourself and your loved ones.