A Health Care Power of Attorney can be a useful tool

Most people are familiar with the general durable power of attorney (POA), a document in which one person appoints someone who can step in to handle their financial, legal and business type matters. Many people are also familiar with a health care proxy, by which one person appoints another person who is authorized to make the medical decisions for them when the doctors determine that the patient lacks the mental capacity to make a medical decision.

Something is needed to bridge the gap for people who are not  “mentally incapacitated,” but  may be suffering from a  condition that makes it difficult for them to actually make or articulate a medical decision. This could be: difficulty with language; “brain fatigue” caused by illness; or frailty and general dependence on others for supported decision-making. The health care power of attorney would authorize someone to make the medical deicision for a patient who needs that assistance. Unlike a “health care proxy,” there would not need to be a prior detemination of mental incapacity.

The medical POA could be particularly useful for patients who speak English as a second language or speak minimal or no English, and for frail aging patients who would like to defer to a trusted advisor. The medical POA could authorize a child, for instance, to make medical decisions and to communicate with health care personnel on their behalf.  While informal arrangements of this sort may be in place, having it in writing provides greater assurance that the arrangement will be accepted by the health care provider.

A medical POA is not an advance directive or “living Will.” It gives no instructions about what treatments to consent o or refuse. It just appoints a decision-maker. For patients who have chronic psychiatric conditions that could become unstable, they may wish to sign a psychiatric advance directive which also authorizes their proxy to make a decision even without a determination of there being mental incapacity.  incapacity.http://www.finkrosner.com/articles/mental-illness-law.html

Careful planning can prevent a crisis. Call us to discuss your estate planning needs. 732-382-6070

 

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