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March 2, 2020

What are Advance Directives and Health Care POAs?

Medical emergencies can happen to anyone. From paying unexpected costs to making quick decisions, they can also bring a mountain of stress. For seniors and their loved ones, life-threatening emergencies can bring challenges that go beyond medical bills. To bring peace of mind to you and your family, you want to be sure you know what decisions to make before that emergency arrives.


Deciding how you want to be cared for or who can make decisions on your behalf should a serious or life-threatening medical issue arise is a major part of planning for the future. There are a few steps you can take to protect your wishes if a medical emergency occurs, specifically, advance directives and health care power of attorney. Both should be taken into consideration as part of your care plan.


Knowing When and How to Prepare for a Medical Event

There are several planning options available to seniors when it comes to emergency or end-of-life treatment. These decisions are called advance directives, and they will save you and your family both time and unwanted stress if a serious medical event occurs. Just as a driver’s license can indicate if you are an organ donor, an advance directive is a legal document created to ensure your wishes are honored when a patient becomes seriously or terminally ill.


The most common advance directive is a living will. Within a living will, you can give your preferences regarding the medical treatment you do or do not want to receive if you are in critical condition and cannot advise those around you. This legal document will include if you want extra measures to be taken to extend your life by way of pain management, tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, CPR, or dialysis. Making these decisions ahead of time and discussing these decisions with your family will provide peace of mind and clear instructions for medical staff during a difficult time.


Another crucial document that seniors should consider is a health care power of attorney or health care POA. This binding document gives you the chance to appoint a health care agent to legally act on your behalf as needed. This differs from a living will in the sense that a health care power of attorney can decide on how you are cared for during emergencies. This is an important decision as having the right health care advocate can have a great influence on how you are cared for. In most cases, this appointee will be a trusted member of your family, someone who knows both your medical and personal history and has your wishes and best interests at heart. This can prevent uncomfortable disputes when it comes to religious decisions regarding treatment options and will ensure any life-support decisions can be made calmly.


It is possible, and encouraged, to have both a living will and an appointed health care POA. You will often see these two official documents combined into one or connected to work together. Your state could have different laws to dictate how the two documents should be handled, so be sure to do your research with your retirement community or health care team when planning.


The Gift of Guidance

While it’s difficult to discuss end-of-life treatment, emergency information, and worst-case-scenarios, it could be one of the best things you do for your loved ones and yourself. Country Meadows has seen the positive impact this advance planning can have on a family, especially when working with seniors seeking memory support services. There can be a range of hurdles during an emergency, and only having a living will or emergency contacts may not satisfy the needs of the moment. Knowing that you can communicate your wishes now, ahead of when you may not verbally or physically be able to, is an option every senior should be aware of.


One way to take control of your future is to anticipate your needs and prepare. Before you lose the ability, consult with your family and your care plan team to decide what advance directives are right for you.


If you’re thinking about personal care (also referred to as assisted living) or senior independent living arrangements and want to begin preparing for what life may bring, our compassionate staff at Country Meadows is happy to answer your questions. Contact us today to learn more about our senior care services and retirement communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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