Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: What is It & How Does It Work?

Updated on September 22, 2021

Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to make our own decisions regarding healthcare. However, there are certain situations and instances where individuals are unable to make these decisions. This is when a ‘Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare’ comes into play. The power of attorney entrusts someone else to make the best decision for you when you are unable to.

The term “Durable Power of Attorney” might be unfamiliar. Many people have no clue what it is, what it does, and how someone can be elected for it. In this article, we will be discussing these things to help you better understand the terms, conditions, and abilities of this important document.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal contract that grants someone the authority to act on someone else’s behalf. The elected person will be able to make important decisions regarding your assets, wealth, mortgages, loans, trade deals, and healthcare.

There are different types of power of attorney. The most common ones are the financial and medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney, also known as power of attorney for healthcare, is responsible for making decisions regarding your health.

What Makes a Power of Attorney “Durable?”

Although the base concept of a power of attorney and a durable power of attorney is kind of similar, they have some vital differences.

A traditional power of attorney gives the appointed person permission on your behalf such as signing checks, paying bills, buying assets, managing property, and so on. These are simple activities and do not require highly skilled people. A durable power of attorney also grants decision-making permission but in this case, these decisions are more important and require professional knowledge and skills. 

The two vital decisions that we talked about before (financial decisions and medical decisions) all fall under the authority of a durable power of attorney. To make the best decisions in these aspects on your behalf, you need someone who is highly skilled and knowledgeable.

How to Elect a Power of Attorney for Healthcare

If you are wondering how to get power of attorney then you will have to find someone who will willingly and knowingly sign the document of the power of attorney and take on the responsibilities. To find the right person, consider the following things. 

1. Elect Someone You Trust

Electing a power of attorney is not difficult but trust and loyalty are two of the most important characteristics you should have in your nominee. The elected person can be a relative, a trustworthy friend, or a close neighbor. 

Since this is a medical issue and not a financial issue, most people tend to put more emphasis on someone who lives closer to them. Trust becomes a second priority then. If you have severe illness or need constant care then people who live close by should be your first pick.

2. Elect Someone with Proper Medical Knowledge

Once you have narrowed down your choices to trustworthy people that live close by, you will now have to select someone who has proper medical knowledge. Any knowledge or experience regarding primary healthcare is a plus point. The person should have a clear idea about your medical conditions so that he/she can relay it to your doctor.

If the elected person does not have a good idea of your medical conditions or does not know about primary healthcare, then it is risky to have him/her as your power of attorney. A healthcare attorney has to make the most important decisions about your health. They will be the ones to check your medications, change them, and even give permissions regarding surgeries.

3. Elect Someone who is a Medical Professional

If it’s possible you should choose someone who is a medical professional. They will be able to make much better-informed decisions. Not only will they have your best interests but they will have experience in the medical field. If you do not have a doctor or healthcare worker in your family and friends, you could appoint a medical staff from your nearest hospital as your attorney for healthcare.

No matter who you pick, you should get a lawyer involved. They will be the ones overlooking the document. The document must be signed by you, the person you are going to appoint, and the lawyer. It will also be signed by two witnesses who are licensed medical practitioners (e.g. doctor, nurse).

Why Elect a Power of Attorney for Healthcare?

Simply put, you should select a power of attorney to help you live a long and healthy life. 

There are many instances when an individual may face traumatic accidents causing dementia, delusion, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other psychological problems. These problems restrict the patient’s ability to make sound decisions. People who are in a coma will also not be able to make decisions for themselves. The doctors who are in charge of such patients will not be able to conduct their treatment without legal permission or prior knowledge about the patient.

The power of attorney will provide doctors with all the necessary information regarding the patient. If there is the need to make a risky operation, then it is also the attorney’s call. The attorney will have legal obligations to make the best decisions.

These medical attorneys will also take care of you when you are conscious. They will take you to the doctor for regular checkups and make sure that you are taking your medicines properly and following the doctor’s prescription.

What They Can and Can’t Do

Activities that are beyond the abilities of a Durable power of attorney include:

  • Taking the patient off from life support
  • Deciding whether they should live or die

Activities they can do include:

  • Paying medical bills
  • Ensuring proper treatment
  • Deciding whether they should go through with an operation
  • Planning a funeral if the patient dies

Cost of Keeping a Power Of Attorney

You will be glad to hear that the cost of a power of attorney is nothing! The only thing you need to pay for is the document where everything will be written and finalized with your, the attorney’s, and the lawyer’s signature. You need to notarize the paper which is around $50. 

So, if you feel that your health is in a state where you may need someone to constantly take care of you and make decisions on your behalf, getting a durable power of attorney is the best decision.

Final Thoughts

Accidents can happen at any time. It is in your best interest to have someone legally by your side to help you make important health care decisions so you can live a healthy life. A power of attorney is a useful option and should be someone you trust and has medical experience if possible. The process is simple and, best of all, virtually free!

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