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As you plan for your future health needs, it’s important to think about what will happen if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. While it’s easy to think that you have many years left before you need to think about such things, the reality is that serious a illness or accident can happen at any age. One question you should ask yourself is who do I want to make decisions for me if I am not able to make them on my own?
A medical power of attorney is also sometimes called a power of attorney for health care. The purpose of the medical power of attorney is to name someone to be your Health Care Agent or spokesperson in case you cannot speak for yourself, either because you are physically too sick to speak, or because you are mentally not able to make decisions for yourself.
You may also see the word “durable” in the title of the document. This is an important term. A power of attorney that is durable is one that will continue to be effective even if you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions. A non-durable power of attorney, which may be used in other legal areas, is no longer effective if you are unable to make decisions. Because the point of the medical power of attorney is to make sure you are cared for when you can’t make decisions, you will need to be sure that your medical power of attorney is durable.
Deciding who to name as your Health Care Agent can be a difficult decision. These questions can help you chose the best person for this important role:
• Does he or she know me well enough to make decisions for me?
• Can he make hard decisions on my behalf?
• Can he stand up to my family and friends if they don’t agree with what I want?
• Does he live close enough that he will be here when I need him to help me?
• Does he share or understand my religious beliefs about health care, death, and other important concerns?
• Can I talk to him freely about my wishes, including talking about what I want to happen if I am dying?