If the time comes that you cannot make your own health care decisions, who will make them for you?
In North Carolina, a Health Care Power of Attorney (“HCPOA”) allows you to give this authority to another person. By giving your permission ahead of time, you prevent disagreements between family members and can avoid having the court become involved in making decisions about your care or giving that power to someone who would not make the decision that is in your best interests.
Signing a Health Care Power of Attorney does not affect your right to make your own decisions. You will continue to make choices about your healthcare as long as you are able to. You are only naming someone to step in and act for you when you cannot make decisions for yourself.
When someone thinks about using a Health Care Power of Attorney, they typically think about end-of-life decisions, but the HCPOA can be useful even for short-term events such as recovering from surgery, an accident or a chronic illness that may cause you to be temporarily unable to make decisions about your healthcare.
When the document is used for end-of-life care decisions, the person you name as your agent may make decisions that will extend your life for as long as possible or bring your earthly life to an end. These decisions may include whether or not you should have surgery or certain medical procedures, whether life support should be used, and/or if nutrition should be given/stopped. You can set forth your wishes for end-of-life care in a living will, that your agent will use to direct your end-of-life care in the way you have decided it should happen.
Understandably, this is a difficult topic for many people to discuss. But it is very important that you talk with your family, friends, doctor, and most importantly, your agent, about the type of care you would want if you are unable to give your own directions.
Your feelings about medical care may change over time, especially when you are confronted with a serious medical condition in a loved one. If your feelings about your medical decisions changes, it is important to discuss this with your agent and family members. You may need to change your agent or the directions in your living will depending on how the documents were originally written.
If you do not have a Health Care Power of Attorney or need to make changes to one that you have prepared in the past, contact NC Legacy Planning at 919-825-3112 for assistance in preparing the legal documents you need to protect your future.