25 Questions You Should Discuss
With Your Health Care Agent
25 Questions You Should Discuss With Your Health Care Agent
It is important to discuss your beliefs and wishes with your health care agents because in the event you become incapacitate they will need to make health care decisions on your behalf. The following are several questions you can consider asking. There are no right or wrong or “preferable” answers to these questions. Each person should answer these questions based on his or her own beliefs and convey those beliefs and wishes to their health care agents. Any other wishes or desires that you feel your health care agents should know should also be given to them so that they can carry out their responsibilities as you wish.
1. Do you think it is a good idea to sign a legal document that says what medical treatments you want and do not want when you are dying? (This is called a “living will.”)
2. Do you think you would want to have any of the following medical treatments performed on you?
a. Kidney dialysis (used if your kidneys stop working)
b. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also called CPR (used if your heart stops beating)
c. Respirator (used if you are unable to breathe on your own)
d. Artificial nutrition (used if you are unable to eat food)
e. Artificial hydration (used if you are unable to drink fluids)
3. Do you want to donate parts of your body to someone else at the time of your death? (This is called “organ donation.”)
4. How would you describe your current health status? If you currently have any medical problems, how would you describe them?
5. If you have current medical problems, in what ways, if any, do they affect your ability to function?
6. How do you feel about your current health status?
7. If you have a doctor, do you like him or her? Why?
8. Do you think your doctor should make the final decision about any medical treatments you might need?
9. How important is independence and self-sufficiency in your life?
10. If your physical and mental abilities were decreased, how would that affect your attitude toward independence and self-sufficiency?
11. Do you wish to make any general comments about the value of independence and control in your life?
13. What will be important to you when you are dying (e.g., physical comfort, no pain, family members present, etc.)?
14. Where would you prefer to die?
15. What is your attitude toward death?
16. How do you feel about the use of life-sustaining measures in the face of terminal illness?
17. How do you feel about the use of life-sustaining measures in the face of permanent coma?
18. How do you feel about the use of life-sustaining measures in the face of irreversible chronic illness (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease)?
19. Do you wish to make any general comments about your attitude toward illness, dying, and death?
20. What is your religious background?
21. How do your religious beliefs affect your attitude toward serious or terminal illness?
22. Does your attitude toward death find support in your religion?
23. How does your faith community, church or synagogue view the role of prayer or religious sacraments in an illness?
24. Do you wish to make any general comments about your religious background and beliefs?
25. What else do you feel is important for your agent to know?
If, over time, your beliefs or attitudes in any area change, you should inform your health care agent. It is also wise to inform your health care agent of the status of your health when there are changes such as new diagnoses. In the event you are informed of a terminal illness, this, as well as the ramifications of it, should be discussed with him or her. How well your health care agent performs depends on how well you have prepared them.
Reproduced with permission of Tim Takacs.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney can be used to give another person the right to sell a car, home, or other property in the place of the maker of the Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney might be used to allow another person to sign a contract for the maker of the Power of Attorney (the person who makes a power of attorney is called the “principal”). It can be used to give another person the authority to make health care decisions, do financial transactions, or sign legal documents that the principal cannot do for one reason or another. With few exceptions, Powers of Attorney can give others the right to do any legal acts that the makers of the Powers of Attorney could do them themselves. A General Power of Attorney gives the “power of attorney Agent” or simply “Agent” (the legal name of the person who is authorized to act for the principal) very broad powers to do almost every legal act that the principal can do. When Elder Law Attorneys draft general Powers of Attorney, they still list the types of things the Agent can do but these powers are very broad. People often do general Powers of Attorney to plan ahead for the day when they may not be able to take care of things themselves. By doing the General Power of Attorney, they designate someone who can do these things for them.
Normal Powers of Attorney terminate if and when the principal becomes incompetent. Yet many people do Powers of Attorney for the sole purpose of designating someone else to act for them if they cannot act for themselves. It is precisely when persons can no longer do for themselves that a Power of Attorney is most valuable. To remedy this inconsistency, the law created a Durable Power of Attorney that remains effective even if a person becomes incompetent. The only thing that distinguishes a Durable Power of Attorney from a regular Power of Attorney is special wording that states that the power survives the principal’s incapacity. Even a Durable Power of Attorney, however, may be terminated under certain circumstances if court proceedings are filed. Most Powers of Attorney done today are durable.
Yes. At the time the Power of Attorney is signed, the principal must be capable of understanding the document. Although a Power of Attorney is still valid if and when a person becomes incompetent, the principal must understand what he or she is signing at the moment of execution. That means a person can be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease or be otherwise incompetent sometimes but as long as they have a lucid moment and are competent at the moment they sign the Power of Attorney, it is valid even if they do not remember signing it at a later date. At the time it is signed, the principal must know what the Power of Attorney does, whom they are giving the Power of Attorney to, and what property may be affected by the Power of Attorney.
Any competent person eighteen years of age and older can serve as an agent. Certain financial institutions can also serve. There is no course of education that agent must complete or any test that Agent must pass. Because a Power of Attorney is such a potentially powerful document, agents should be chosen for reliability and trustworthiness. In the wrong hands, a Power of Attorney can be a license to steal. It can be a big responsibility to serve as an agent.
Medicare is health insurance and covers medical services such as physician appointments, therapy, blood tests, x rays, medical procedures and hospitalization. Medicare will sometime pay for rehabilitation in a long-term care facility for a period of 20 to 100 days, but not longer. In long-term care, Medicaid covers the cost of ongoing support services for daily functioning, such as room and board in a nursing home.
Medicaid is a federal program that is overseen by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In Pennsylvania, Medicaid is called Medical Assistance and is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS).
In Pennsylvania, Medicaid funds are not available to pay for assisted living or personal care.
For Medicaid to pay for care in a nursing home, an individual recipient must be determined to need a nursing home level of care by a physician and the local Office of Aging. An individual whose income is not greater than three times the poverty level may keep up to $8,000 of total resources, but may otherwise keep only $2,400. The cash value of life insurance counts as a resource, but one car and a residential home does not count as a resource.
Empowering Clients with Holistic Planning at
Keystone Elder Law
At Keystone Elder Law, we believe that the physical, social, legal, and financial considerations of our clients all intertwine. We utilize an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate each area, which allows for the creation of a plan that addresses the concerns of the individual as a whole as well as the family. To this end, our model of practice includes a Care Coordinator (usually a nurse or social worker), whose expertise complements our team of attorneys.
When the road of life is smooth, decisions about legal and financial matters are easy to push aside for “a rainy day.” Planning ahead, however, will allow for more options as you view the map of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Don’t let a crisis limit your choices or derail your plans.(717) 697-3223