No one wants to think about the possibility of a medical emergency. However, a medical power of attorney, also called a health care proxie or a healthcare power of attorney, is an important aspect of emergency planning. Many people plan for the unexpected by acquiring life insurance and health insurance, but they skip a medical power of attorney. This document is equally important because in the event that you’re unable to make health or medical decisions for yourself, there’s someone in place to speak on your behalf. These documents are highly important for people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, but recommended for everyone.
Designate Someone for Your Medical Power of Attorney
This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. The person chosen will make health decisions on your behalf, thus it’s important to choose someone that you’re close with and someone that you trust. Obvious options might include a spouse, child, sibling, parent or other relative. However, you can also designate a close friend. When setting up a medical power of attorney, it’s also wise to choose an alternate person – just in case your primary choice is unavailable at the time of your medical emergency.
Prior to giving one or more individuals power of attorney, speak with them to see if they’re willing to accept this responsibility. Do not assume. The person chosen as your primary and alternate must be comfortable with this role. In an emergency, they’ll be called upon to give permission for surgical procedures, medications, nutrition and so much more.
Communicate Your Medical Wishes
You need to have the “uncomfortable talk” with the person designated as power of attorney. In order for this person to make medical decisions on your behalf, he has to know your feelings. How do you feel about blood transfusions? Would you like to be resuscitated? If you do not communicate your wishes, the person designated may have to guess in a lot of situations, and he can make the wrong decisions. You can also express your medical wishes in writing by drafting a living will.
Draw Up a Power of Attorney
You do not need to hire a lawyer to create a medical power of attorney. But if you have questions or need legal advice, it helps to have an attorney on your side. Many websites, such as LegalZoom.com and Nolo.com, have state-specific documents available for download. Include your personal information on the form and then indicate the person(s) designated as your medical power of attorney. You and the person(s) designated will have to sign the document, and many states require that the document be notarized and signed before two witnesses. Government agencies, banks and some insurance companies offer notary services.
Distribute Copies of Your Medical Power of Attorney
After signing your medical power of attorney, distribute copies to your doctor, a family member and the person(s) designated as your power of attorney. Keep the original copy and store this document in a safe place.