5 Reasons Why You Need Medical Power of Attorney and Other Health Care Directives in Place
1. Set your mind at ease by making some health care and medical decisions now
There are a number of medical emergencies and elder care situations in which you or a loved one may need to set medical power of attorney or other health care directives in motion. Meeting with a lawyer who specializes in elder care and estate planning will help you get these documents set up now and avoid a hassle later. Click here to learn more about how to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
2. Choose who gets to be in charge of medical decisions
Do you want a specific, trusted family member or friend to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself? Is there someone you absolutely do not want to make decisions for you? Selecting now who will act as your representative should you experience an unexpected health crisis can set your mind at ease.
3. Make your elder care choices known
Would you rather receive elder care at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home? If you have a preference, establishing clear health care directives—including setting up a health care representative you can trust—is in your best interest.
4. Maintain communication during a medical emergency
Would you be upset if family and friends were unable to visit you in a hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home? Health care directives ensure that you can communicate with your family when you need to most and your family, in turn, can communicate with your team of doctors, nurses, and caretakers.
5. Reduce stress later on
Health issues and medical emergencies can arrive at any time. Putting a care plan into action in the midst of a health crisis can add stress to an already difficult moment in elder care. Setting up medical power of attorney now ensures that should a health-related problem arise, the focus will be on family, not on filling out documents.
The Purpose of A Medical Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives
What can a medical power of attorney accomplish in the state of Texas?
A medical power of attorney (sometimes called a healthcare power of attorney) is a document that creates a plan ensuring that your wishes and desires are followed and carried out by trusted loved ones.
- This document authorizes the person of your choosing to make medical decisions on your behalf.
- This document can be customized to provide broad decision-making authority or specific, detailed instructions to the person given this power.
- Unlike other powers of attorney, medical power of attorney only engages once a physician has declared you to be incapacitated or no longer fit to make these decisions.
What are some other health-related directives to look out for?
Aside from the medical power of attorney document, you will want to complete forms that address end-of-life decisions, medical records, and the kinds of psychiatric medications you approve of. Please see the next section for a list of the different types of medical documents our law office uses in the practice of elder law.
5 Essential Steps to Set Up Health Care Documents, Including a Medical Power of Attorney, in Dallas, TX
Learn how to set up a medical power of attorney in five essential steps. We also list the different types of medical documents our law office will file on your behalf.
- Identify trusted individuals in a medical power of attorney.
First, identify a few people you would trust with responsibility for your health care.
How do you choose trusted individuals to name as agents in medical directives?
Your agent is the person who will take over your medical choices. Below are a few things to consider when selecting an individual to become a trusted agent. Your elder law or estate planning attorney will be happy to discuss this personal matter further with you as needed.
Should you name co-agents in your medical power of attorney?
When you authorize more than one person to make medical decisions on your behalf in your medical power of attorney, these individuals are known as co-agents.
But is naming co-agents a wise choice?
The pros of naming co-agents:
– Accessibility. Naming co-agents will limit any delays potentially faced when trying to reach a solo agent.
– Lighter Burden. Naming co-agents can relieve the burden of one person having to make difficult decisions on his or her own.
The cons of naming co-agents:
– Disagreements. Co-agents may disagree about certain decisions, leaving a health care provider to make the final call on some matters.
– Confusion. Unnecessary confusion can ensue when co-agents provide differing directions to health care providers.
Click here to learn more about the pros and cons to having more than one agent under a financial power of attorney.
- Discuss your plan.
Next, have a conversation with the individuals you selected to be your agent about your health care preferences, and listen to how they feel about taking on this responsibility.
Do you agree with this individual on medical matters?
Have a conversation with this person about how you do—and don’t—wish to be treated should you lose your capacity to make decisions. Does this individual seem to understand and agree with your choices? The answer should be yes.
Is this individual emotionally resilient?
Expect that any decision will be made with some level of emotion. However, you do want to consider whether this person can handle difficult moments. Will this individual be able to act according to your wishes rather than according to his or her own personal feelings? Someone who is able to muster emotional strength during a medical emergency would make a good choice for an agent.
- Reach out to an elder law attorney.
Find an elder law attorney (who usually also serves as an estate planning attorney). An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable advice and help you prepare any and all necessary documents. They are distinct from other kinds of lawyers in that they specialize in working on behalf of older individuals and their families on sensitive medical and financial issues.
When you hire an elder care or estate planning attorney, look for someone who focuses on empathy, understanding, and diligence. Steven C. Holman is dedicated to making sure that his clients are comfortable with the legal process of creating medical directives as well as fully informed and prepared for every contingency.
- Find, print, and deliver your medical directives.
Types of health care legal documents
This is a list of legal documents you may encounter as you work through your elder law checklist. Please go to our power of attorney page for more information or contact us for a free consultation where we can go over any questions you have.
Medical Power of attorney – A medical power of attorney is a form created by you (or a loved one) naming a trusted individual who can make decisions if you become unable to make them on your own. Here’s a link to the Medical Power of Attorney Designation of Health Care Agent from the Texas State Government form.
Directive to Physicians – A directive to physicians is another term for a living will. It is a document that spells out how you would like physicians to handle sensitive, end-of-life medical matters so your loved one doesn’t need to make those difficult decisions.
Mental Health Declaration – A mental health declaration allows you to decide ahead of time what kind of drugs you are—and are not—willing to accept as mental health treatment.
HIPAA Authorization – A HIPAA authorization allows named individuals to access your medical records; they are otherwise considered sensitive information and kept confidential.
Do-Not-Resuscitate (or DNR) Order – A DNR order is a request that health care providers do not use cardiopulmonary resuscitation in case of a cardiopulmonary event (such as heart failure).
Disposition of Remains – A disposition of remains document explains how you would like your remains memorialized.
Declaration of Guardian – A declaration of guardian document states your preference of guardian, should a judge ever need to assign one.
Distribute your directives to relevant individuals
Once you have your documents printed and signed, send them to your doctors so they are on record. Deliver copies to your agent(s), too, so they will be able to provide the documents to third parties as needed.
- Stop worrying and live your life.
Enjoy peace of mind, knowing that you have accounted for everything. Once you have hired a lawyer to set up a medical power of attorney and other medical directives, you will be able to live your life without fear of what will happen if you face unexpected medical complications, hospitalization, or any other kind of incapacitation.
It’s important to be prepared and knowledgeable about all your elder care options. If you are unclear about what your options may be, find an elder care attorney that can help you sort through these health care and medical decisions. When you’re prepared for your elderly care, there is less to worry about and more life to enjoy.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about health care directives
According to law, only someone with the legal power to represent you can place you in a nursing home. A doctor cannot put you in a nursing home, even if you are incapacitated. However, a doctor can decide whether or not you have lost the capacity to make decisions, and it is this call that activates a medical power of attorney directive. The trusted loved one named in this directive—the agent—will then be in charge of making care decisions on your behalf.
If you do not have a medical power of attorney in place at the time you lose decision-making capacity, Texas law will step in. Texas will then appoint your spouse, your children, or Adult Protective Services to make this and other decisions. If Adult Protective Services becomes your guardian, the agency gains full authority to make decisions on your behalf—with or without consulting your family members.
This is why it is so important to make sure that you have created a medical power of attorney and that you fully trust whomever you name as agent in that document.
A living will removes any end-of-life decision-making burden from whomever is named agent in a medical power of attorney. A living will allows someone to make decisions about how he or she would like to be treated if diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition, and no longer able to make decisions.
Since many medical power of attorney agents are family members, this can alleviate what might otherwise be a very emotional decision. It also ensures that the individual who creates the living will receives the treatment he or she wants, since a family member—under the emotional strain of the situation—may have second thoughts on previously discussed end-of-life care plans.
No. The HIPAA authorization only grants access to an individual’s medical information. It does not grant authority to make decisions for that individual. Only an agent authorized under a medical power of attorney, or a person authorized under Texas law, may make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual.
However, it can be a prudent planning strategy to name trusted individuals under a HIPAA authorization so they can stay informed about any medical situation and offer guidance and support to the agent named under the medical power of attorney document. In a medical crisis, emotions and stress can impact how people hear and understand information coming from the medical professionals. Authorizing more than one person to listen to medical options and diagnoses helps ensure that sound decisions are made on behalf of the individual in question.
Steven C. Holman
Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney
I love to spend time with my wife and three children and serving the Dallas Fort Worth community. I provide clients with a wealth of knowledge and experience navigating each individual’s Estate Planning needs including Trusts, Probate, Elder Care Law, and Long Term Care Planning. My law firm specializes in assisting clients with complicated legal forms and qualifying for the maximum Medicaid and Veteran (VA) benefits in Texas.
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