What are advance directives and why do I need them?Published 4:19pm Monday, May 7, 2012
Deciding who to name as your power of attorney, financial or health care surrogate should not be a surprise to family or close friends. Those decisions should be discussed and made clear as to whom you wish to be responsible for all or any individual aspect of decision-making on your behalf. It may be one person for everything, or perhaps one person for your financial decisions and another for health care decisions, and it does NOT have to be a spouse of even a family member.
Keep in mind, no advance directive takes effect unless or until you are no longer able to make or communicate such decisions for yourself. If your family or personal circumstances change, your documents can be revoked and rewritten.
People of all ages can be affected – remember the case of Terry Schiavo in Florida? But the odds are that seniors are most likely to be affected due to accidents and illnesses like cancer, cardio-vascular problems, dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke or just the aging process itself.
Creating advance directives does not necessarily require an attorney. But it’s a very good idea to seek legal counsel to be sure that you are fully protecting yourself with complete, witnessed and notarized documents. It’s an inexpensive way to ensure that your wishes will be followed.
One last bit of advice. An advance directive won’t do you much good if it’s locked away in a file cabinet or safe where no one can find it. Give copies to your physician(s), family, friends, clergy, and attorney. Ask your doctor to enter it in her records, and have a copy with you if you go to the hospital.
Ron Kauffman is a Geriatric Consultant & Expert on Issues of Aging in private practice in Henderson & Polk Counties. He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available on Amazon.com and at the Polk County Senior Center. His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. Contact Ron at (828) 696-9799 or by email at email@example.com.