Healthcare Power of Attorney in Columbia County
Who Should Make Medical Decisions If You Are Incapacitated?
Selecting a healthcare power of attorney is a significant decision. You are signing a document that designates someone to speak for you and to carry out your wishes regarding all aspects of your medical care should you be unable to speak for yourself.
At the Law Offices of Kreisher and Gregorowicz, we understand the importance of planning for these end-of-life possibilities and the deep emotion that these discussions can evoke. Our staff includes the only two certified elder law attorneys (CELAs) in Columbia and Montour counties. Marianne E. Kreisher and Marissa B. Marshall are better prepared to assist seniors in our community with legal issues, as well as to secure other resources and services from both the public and private sectors specifically in place for the elderly. A single call to (570) 784-5211 is all that you need to do to schedule an appointment.
Selecting a healthcare power of attorney while you are in good health, without the added stress of an impending medical crisis, ensures that you have the time to make the choice that is in your best interests. The State of Pennsylvania allows you to use a basic form to name your representative, but there are three steps that must be taken to complete the document. We can discuss the process with you and guide you as you consider your options.
The first step in the process is choosing the person that you want to be your agent or "proxy." In many cases, this would be a family member or a close friend. There are many points to consider when selecting this agent. Some of these include:
- Choose someone whom you can speak to openly and freely about delicate matters, and who will understand your priorities and desired healthcare initiatives. This person should be someone you trust to act on your wishes and only your wishes.
- The person you select should live near you or be able to travel to you if needed in a time of medical crisis.
- This person should be someone you trust with your life, as that is what you are asking of them.
- Understand that the person you select could face conflicting emotions and opinions from your family members and loved ones. Your agent must be able to see past those feelings and have the will to follow your wishes.
- Finally, your agent needs to be your strongest advocate if the medical institution or care providers are unresponsive to your needs and the requests in your directives.
In the event that you have no family nearby or would like to select a person outside your family, here are a few guidelines to help you with that selection.
- You should not select anyone who is a current healthcare provider or is employed by a care facility that is currently serving you.
- You should not select a spouse of any of your current caregivers or healthcare providers.
- It is not advisable to select anyone who is in a professional position to evaluate your mental capacity or level of fitness to make your own decisions.
- You should avoid selecting anyone who is employed by a government agency that is financially responsible for your care. The only exception to this is if the person is a blood relative and would place your best interests ahead of his or her employer’s financial interests.
- You are advised not to select anyone whom the court system has appointed as a guardian or conservator, or anyone who is serving as the healthcare agent for 10 or more people.
These points are all designed to ensure that you select an agent who will focus on nothing but carrying out your wishes if you are unable to speak on your own behalf.
After selecting your proxy, it is time to make your wishes clear. Your CELA can assist you with this process by explaining general levels of care and what they entail. Most seniors do not specifically list procedures; rather, they discuss levels of care, as illnesses can be unpredictable. Heroic measures or life support are common terms that arise in these discussions, as well as "do not resuscitate" orders. You need to determine and convey to your agent your desires for use of life support and other care in the event of a serious illness.
The final step in the process is completing the legal document naming your healthcare power of attorney. Your CELA can provide the forms and assist you in correctly completing them. In addition, your CELA can advise you on whom to distribute copies of the form to, as well as maintain a copy in your legal file.
Contact the Law Offices of Kreisher and Gregorowicz today at (570) 784-5211 to begin this important process that will benefit you and your loved ones should a healthcare crisis arise in your future.