Planning for Independence as You Age

Planning for incapacity
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Gathering with the family for a Fourth of July celebration in Las Cruces is a heartwarming time for the family’s oldest members. It’s a day to celebrate our great nation’s independence, but also a time to take a long look at the generations of the family gathered around the table, making you proud and hopeful for the future.

This is also the time to consider what plans are in place to ensure you can maintain your own independence in the coming years. This includes creating or updating your estate plan, to be sure it reflects your wishes for your future and your family’s future. Your planning may also include preparing for long-term care and taxes.

Planning for incapacity is an important part of your estate plan that helps you maintaining dignity as long as possible.  It makes it possible for your family to take care of you, should you become too sick or injured to be able to manage your own affairs or communicate your wishes.

Medical Power of Attorney: This document names a primary and secondary person to make health care decisions on your behalf. It needs to be current, as healthcare facilities are reluctant to rely on outdated forms. Your first choice may be an adult child or another family member, but it is wise to name a person who is calm in emergencies and will be able to make tough decisions if necessary.

Financial Power of Attorney: This document gives the named agent the ability to act on your behalf in the business aspects of your life. That includes everything from paying household bills and keeping an eye on your investment accounts to selling your home. An estate planning attorney can create a customized POA so you can be confident it will give the person you name the level of control you want.

Living Will or Advance Directives: These documents are used to give directions about your preference for medical care if you’re seriously ill, in a coma or near death. It is a means to establish your wishes concerning what treatments you don’t want as much as what you do want. Having a living will can avoid family arguments about what you wanted …or having to guess your wishes, which can haunt decision makers. Do you want to be kept alive by artificial means, and if so, what treatments are acceptable and what are not? Would you wish to donate your organs or your body for scientific study? All of these questions can be addressed in the living will and are important to consider when planning for independence.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate): A DNR is used to tell medical providers and emergency medical teams not to try to restart your heart or lungs if they have failed. It’s important to have this document with you, in your home or a healthcare facility. If the DNR is with your daughter who lives several hours away, healthcare providers are legally bound in most states to use CPR to bring you back to life.

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): A POLST is a written medical order from a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant to provide for people with a chronic health condition or who are seriously ill. It requires a candid discussion with your healthcare provider to understand your wishes for your care. While the DNR refers to CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), the POLST can address your wishes about whether or not you want to receive pain medication, nutrition, intubation, and other end-of-life treatments. It should also be with you in your home or in your medical chart at a healthcare facility.

HIPAA Release: You’ll want this document to allow medical care providers to share and discuss medical records with the person of your choice. HIPAA is a federal law created to protect patient privacy and violations come with hefty fines for hospitals, doctors, and healthcare facilities. The person you name should be someone who will be most involved with your care.

A list of medications and healthcare providers. This is not a legal document, but it will be helpful to family members and healthcare providers if it’s ever needed. Create a list of all treating physicians with the doctor’s name and phone number. If your providers use a patient-facing portal, find out if they are permitted to let someone else access your account. If you take multiple medications, you could simply affix labels from empty prescription bottles to a sheet of paper to provide information on the medication and the pharmacy.

All of these documents will help your family take better care of you and follow your own wishes as you age. Consider it a mark of your own independence, as you decide how you wish to handle the challenges of aging. Request a consultation with our Las Cruces elder law office so that we can help you create a plan to maintain your control, freedom, and independence!