Who Makes Medical Decisions When You Are Incapacitated?

A heath care power of attorney, or POA, is an important document. They allow others to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself. There are essentially two different basic types of powers of attorney. One will begin as soon as you sign them and the other will only be used if you are incapacitated. Both of the documents are used to name someone to make medical decisions for you. The person who is named in the document is known as the “agent”.

Typically, the health care power of attorney is all-encompassing, allowing the agent to make all of the medical decisions for you. Generally, they are used by elderly people, particularly those who are in poor health. In those cases, the elderly person might decide that they want to have someone else in charge of their health care decisions. They may worry that they are not making the right choices, or that they could become incapacitated and not have any say.

What About HIPAA?

One of the common questions about health care POAs is how they work with HIPAA laws. These are laws that are meant to keep peoples’ health information private and secure. However, this does not hold with a health care power of attorney. When you sign the document, you are essentially waiving your privacy rights, allowing the agent to have access to your medical information. This is important because they will need to have access to and knowledge of this information to make the right decisions for you.

What Can the Agent Do?

You will find that the agent has a range of capabilities when acting on your behalf. They will be able to speak with your doctors and other health care professionals regarding all aspects of your medical care. They will have the authority to consent to certain types of medical and health care treatment, or to refuse consent.

They will be the ones who will determine whether you can still live at home or not, as well. For example, as some people get older, they may feel that they can still live at home, even though it could be dangerous for them. They might have dementia and forget to take medication or turn off the stove. They might be at risk of falling and being injured. The agent with the health care POA can decide whether the person should stay at home or go to a facility.

Additionally, the health care agent will manage any disputes that arise between your loved ones regarding your health care. Even though your other family members might want to have a say in your care, it is ultimately left to the agent. The agent will also be the one that can authorize your living will and determine when care should be ended that is prolonging your life (i.e., pulling the plug).

Who to Choose for a Health Care POA?

One of the biggest things that you will have to consider is who will be the one to act as your agent. There are a few things that you will want to consider. First, you should choose someone that knows and who will respect your wishes when it comes to different types of treatments. You also want to have someone who is organized and who can stay calm in a crisis. Choose someone that is going to be able to go to the doctor’s with you and who will understand the information they are given.

This could be someone that is a close friend or a family member, but they do not have to be related at all. Keep in mind that the agent does not necessarily need to be local either, although it can make things easier. They do not need to be in the medical field, but they should be capable of understanding medical terms and options.

Ultimately, the person you choose will be up to you, but you do want to make sure they are a good fit for the task. Someone that is highly emotional and who may not be able to make the decisions you would want during a time of crisis will not be a good choice no matter how much you care for one another.

It is also possible to name more than one agent. You can opt to have two people who are working together. You will need to determine whether they need to agree on and make decisions jointly, or if they can act independently.

Be Prepared to Fill Out the Document

Before you fill out the paperwork for the health care power of attorney, you will want to make sure you are as prepared as possible. Write out a list of all of the doctors that you see regularly, as well as doctors or specialists that you see occasionally. You should also have a list of the routine tests that you have, and you should ask the doctors for records. Put your health information together including things like height and weight, emergency contact info, allergies, whether you have a pacemaker, chronic health issues, medications you take, treatments you receive, etc.

Make sure all of this information is in a location that will be easy for the agent to access when needed. Then, you should complete the paperwork to name the chosen health care agent for your POA.

Getting Help Filing the Health Care POA

Naturally, you need to be sure that you are completing and filing the document correctly for the health care power of attorney. Even though the forms might seem straightforward, you will find that it’s not always as easy as you might think. You can work with the certified legal document preparers from Modern Law to get the health care POA filled out properly and with relative ease. The cost of the services is just $99.

When you work with professionals, it will reduce the risk of making mistakes on the paperwork that could cause problems for you later.

Resources: https://www.azag.gov/sites/default/files/docs/seniors/life-care/2020/Medical_POA-FINAL_2020-03.pdf

https://susansandys.com/arizona-powers-of-attorney/durable-health-care-power-of-attorney/