Preparing legal documents such as medical directives and power of attorneys can be confusing. Here is your guide to the differences between a medical directive and power of attorney, and how to know what you need.
A medical directive (also known as an advance directive) is written, legal instructions on your preferences regarding medical care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Medical directives guide doctors and caregivers on your preferences if you become terminally ill, seriously injured, are in a coma, in late stages of dementia, or near the end of life.
Though it may seem like a daunting task, choosing to prepare an advance medical directive relieves your family and caregivers of the burden of decision-making on your behalf and allows them to focus on the moment of crisis and deal with their own grief. Medical directives can also help to eliminate disagreements between your loved ones on how to care for you should you be unable to make decisions for yourself.
Some of the decisions you might outline in your medical directive include your wishes regarding:
• Mechanical ventilation
• Tube feeding
• Antibiotics and antiviral medications
• Comfort care
• Organ and tissue donation
Medical directives are commonly mistaken as being for elderly adults alone, but the truth is that adults of all ages should consider preparing such documents, as we never know when end-of-life circumstances may occur.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney, sometimes called a durable power of attorney or a health care proxy, is a specific type of advance directive that names an individual to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. That person might be a spouse, adult child, other relative, or friend. You may also select an alternate in the event the person you choose is unable to fulfill his or her duties as your power of attorney.
When selecting someone to serve as your power of attorney, choose someone who:
• Meets your state’s requirements for power of attorney.
• Is not a member of your health care team.
• Is willing to discuss your medical and end-of-life wishes with you.
• Is trusted to make decisions based on your preferences and values.
• Can serve as an advocate on your behalf in the event that there are disagreements about your medical care.
A medical directive relieves your loved ones of some of the stresses involved with making end-of-life decisions, and a power of attorney takes it one step further by specifically naming an individual to be the final say on all decisions regarding your care. While one can function without the other, both are recommended to ensure you receive medical care based on your wishes and values.
Are you ready to prepare your medical directives and/or power of attorney? Contact the experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare for a reputable attorney who can help prepare these important legal documents.
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