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Getting a handle on healthcare decisions

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2012 | Estate Planning |

Many Camden County, New Jersey residents know what goes into planning for worst-case scenarios. For example, when a man or woman is incapacitated and cannot voice their wishes for medical treatment, they need to appoint someone to make those decisions on their behalf. This is one of the important elements of estate planning.

However, a vague knowledge of how to go about doing this is not enough. That is why everyone — not just the elderly — should get a firm grip on what measures to take in order to ensure a trustworthy person will carry out their wishes.

Many people recently had an opportunity to learn about this area of estate planning with the National Healthcare Decisions Day where a number of hospitals and hospices around the country offered information for individuals on how they can go about completing their advance directives, which clearly spells out a person’s detailed wishes on how they would like to be medically cared for. With an advance directive, you can specify if you would ever want to be put on life support, and if so, for how long.

A power of attorney is the agreement needed to grant others the power to speak on your behalf when you are incapacitated by an illness or injury. Contrary to its namesake, it does not require an attorney to complete.

People often confuse the power of attorney with a living will. However, a living will only goes into effect when a person is incapacitated and unable to articulate their healthcare wishes. A living will informs medical staff whether or not the individual wants (or does not want) artificial life support used on them if they are terminally ill or if they are in a persistent vegetative state where they would not live without external assistance.

These estate-planning measures seem like a more urgent matter for the elderly, but experts advise anyone over the age of 18 to adopt a medical power of attorney. An unforeseen accident can strike and incapacitate even a young, healthy individual.

Chances are you will eventually find yourself in a situation where these estate-planning tools are needed. Information from the Pew Research Center stated that 42 percent of Americans have seen a loved one contract a terminal illness or fall into a coma within the last five years.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Like taxes, death is certain; do you know how to prepare?,” Barbara Brotman, April 16, 2012