Preparing your advanced health care directives is a critical component to securing your end-of-life wishes. However, when it comes to preparing for the future, many people often keep it narrowed to wills and trusts. While worrying about your loved ones is the first thing people think of when it comes to wills, that’s not all they do.
An advanced health care directive provides information about your preferences for health care and end-of-life wishes. This is specifically for an event where you become too sick to make your own decisions.
In Pennsylvania, there are two parts to an advanced health care directive:
When coupled together, these two documents work to ensure your loved ones know what medical decisions you want to be made if you cannot make them on your own.
A health care power of attorney (HCPA) is a legal document that allows an individual to make decisions about another person’s medical care. For example, you may name your adult-aged child or spouse your health care power of attorney. This means if you are rendered incapacitated by medical professionals, they can carry out your wishes.
This is also known as having a healthcare proxy. This only comes into effect when you are unable to communicate your medical choices on your own.
Widely, a health care power of attorney can make decisions on your behalf. They will also be the point of contact for your medical providers for:
While the person named your health care power of attorney has the power to make medical choices on your behalf, your living will explains what your medical wishes are.
A living will provides the specific wishes you want for treatment, organ donation, and your personal values should you be incapacitated. This may include religious and spiritual actions you wish to occur at the end of your life.
A living will may also include instructions about:
Determining who you want to be your health care power of attorney is a difficult decision. This person needs to be someone you trust to follow the wishes you designated in your living will.
Remember that this individual will literally have your life in their hands. While it’s important that it’s someone you feel close to and comfortable with, they also need to be emotionally capable to make those tough decisions should something happen to you.
For example, if you have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order but you know your daughter has an issue with that, she may not be the person to make that decision for you. However, if your son is willing to make that decision, he would be the better choice as your health care power of attorney.
However, when children and spouses are involved, it’s important that you discuss these wishes with them. Things change, life happens, and it’s important that your wishes are met, no matter who has to make them.
When life changes and you feel like the person you named as your health care power of attorney is no longer suited, you can change your mind and rename the health care power of attorney. Just be sure to communicate that with all parties involved.
Preparing for the end of life is not something we often want to think about. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s important to have these documents in place before you need them. If you need legal counsel on drafting your advanced health care directive, including a health care power of attorney and living will, the Scranton estate planning attorneys of Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam are here for you.
Call (570) 348-0776 and schedule an appointment with Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. We can walk you through, step by step, all the legal options available to you.
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