In an ideal world, you can make all of your own medical decisions as you age so that you get exactly the care that you want. Unfortunately, the world is often far less than ideal. You may not be able to make all of those decisions.
Say, for instance, that you suffer a stroke. It comes with no warning signs and no advance notice. They’re able to take you to the hospital, but you are still unconscious and cannot talk to the doctors. Now who makes your medical decisions? Who decides what type of life-saving care you accept or refuse? If doctors have a unique idea that they think may help but they need someone to give them the go-ahead to try it, who gets to decide if they’ll do it or not?
Using a power of attorney
One option to address this is to set up a power of attorney in advance. You can choose a health care agent who gets to make your decisions, and the power of attorney only grants them this ability if you are incapacitated. Your agent can talk to the doctors, consider your needs and make the choices that he or she believes you would have made. You can even talk about it together in advance so that they know where you stand.
Another option is to use an advance directive. This is a legal note that instructs doctors on the type of care you’ve selected. The downside is that, while this can address broad issues — such as whether or not you want to be put on life support — it is harder for it to address specifics. In a complex situation where things are constantly in motion, an advance directive may not tell the doctors everything they need to know. Using a power of attorney to select an agent means you have someone who can address this dynamic situation and make decisions in real time.
No matter what you choose, the key is to remember that you do have options and you can make these plans long before you actually need them. You don’t have to leave any of this up to chance. You can have the peace of mind of knowing someone is on your side. Just find out what legal steps you need to take to get it done.