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The Three Most Important Forms for Senior Health Care Planning

Healthcare providers and families advise seniors take a proactive approach to healthcare, outlining their end-of-life wishes prior to an emergent event.Not only do written statements ensure seniors receive the care they desire, but specific directions help family members make decisions aligning with their loved ones' wishes should medical conditions render seniors unable to advocate for themselves.The following list of healthcare documentation is not exhaustive; however, it should help initiate senior healthcare discussions with physicians and family members.

Power of Attorney

The Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document giving authority to an attorney-in-fact, or agent, to act on behalf of another once he or she is declared unable to make decisions.The principal dictates when the agent is given authority.Some principals opt to bestow authority upon signing while others choose a later stage.Different types of POAs exist, all with customizable scopes of power, providing seniors flexibility in developing a POA suitable to each person.

One type of POA is the Power of Attorney for Health Care.This form is an Advance Directive, or a written statement that explains what others are to do in the event an individual is unable to make health care decisions for his or herself.If David names his son, Bill, as his agent, David has a POA giving Bill authority to make medical decisions on David's behalf once David is clinically declared unable to make decisions for himself.David's POA specifies when, how long and in what areas Bill has agent power.Another POA is the Power of Attorney for Finances.If David names Bill the agent for finances, David's POA states Bill is to manage David's finances which may include paying medical bills, filing taxes and handling David's small business operations during his absence.A financial POA may relate to property, stocks and other assets.It is up to David how much Bill can do on his behalf.

Living Will

A living will is another Advance Directive specifying the type of life–prolonging medical care an individual does or does not wish to receive in the event he or she becomes terminally ill and is unable to make his or her own decisions.Living wills take effect only if a doctor declares the patient incapacitated and unlikely to recover.A feeding tube is an example of a life-prolonging treatment.In the event David cannot naturally intake nourishment, David's living will explicitly states his choice to accept or refuse a feeding tube, under what circumstances and for how long. David's living will eliminates confusion and ensures he receives the treatment he desires.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)/Practitioners Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate) and POLST (Practitioner's Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) are Advance Directives.The DNR and POLST documents dictate what health care staff is to do in life-threatening situations.Should a healthcare provider find David without a pulse and not breathing, his DNR tells medical staff whether to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).David may use a POLST to create a practitioner order reflecting his wishes.A POLST is similar to a living will, but it is a clinical order and is more specific than a living will.The POLST contains four parts: DNR, medical intervention (IV, monitors, tubes, etc.), antibiotic use and artificial nutrition or hydration.It is vital to clearly define emergency health care wishes.If David does not specify his wishes, medical staff must perform all life-sustaining treatments necessary.

Where to Find These Forms

Different states may have their own Advance Directive forms.For Advance Directives in Illinois, seniors will find the DNR/POLST, power of attorney and living will documentation by visiting Seniors should consult their healthcare provider or social worker for assistance filling out healthcare-related forms. The Power of Attorney for Finances can be found at financial and legal institutions.Seniors should seek legal counsel for filling out a financial POA due to the complexity of finances and asset management.

Senior years are great ones.Although it can be difficult to write down a plan for so many medical scenarios, by doing so, seniors ensure they receive the care they want, even after reaching a medically-vulnerable state.Communicating end-of-life wishes not only gives seniors peace of mind, but it gives them control.For advice about senior healthcare options, please talk to a senior care provider,  hospital social worker, or the team at your local Heritage Health. Visit our website to learn more about our services and locations.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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