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When does a medical power of attorney make decisions?

Anyone who has read a medical waiver or chosen a health insurance plan understands that decisions are not as easy as 1-2-3. There are immeasurable nuances and variables in health care from timing to side effects and cost.

Choosing a medical power of attorney will plan for your future health care decisions when you are unable to, allotting a trusted family member or associate to assume your care. Although the decision itself can be daunting, it's essential to make sure that your best interests are carried out.

POA takes over when you are unable

Your medical power of attorney is only relied upon when you are unable to make your own decisions. This begs the question of how and when those moments occur.

If you are unconscious or incapacitated (under anesthesia, for example) a medical power of attorney assumes decision-making responsibility, as you are physically incapable at that time. However, the medical power of attorney also gets involved if you are deemed mentally unfit for varied reasons.

Dementia and Alzheimer's are the most common instances where a patient is unfit to make medical decisions. A medical doctor or nurse must determine that you are mentally unsound to make competent decisions before your power of attorney will step in and take over decision making in these cases.

Is a POA permanent?

Power of attorney decisions occur only when you are unfit or unable. When you recover from a surgery or awaken from anesthesia you can make your own decisions again. The POA is only applicable when you cannot speak for yourself.

You can also change your power of attorney designation at any time, provided you are of sound mind for a binding legal contract. It is possible that your chosen POA will either relocate or your relationship with them will change.

Advance directives

After choosing a POA, you should speak personally with your future caretaker to share medical and spiritual concerns and scenarios. It is important that your wishes are known concerning treatment methods and life threatening conditions so they can follow your wishes. Your wishes can be specific and included in a living will, or more open-ended due to the complexity of medical decisions, which would be covered by your POA.

A spouse is automatically your medical power of attorney. However, if either of you are of advanced aged or in declining health, it is wise to choose a healthy POA who is readily available and can make difficult decisions in line with your wishes. Back-ups can also be selected in case your primary POA cannot be reached when needed.

Nobody can see the future, which makes estate planning so challenging. Because of this, it is important to share your wishes and beliefs clearly while taking the proper legal steps to make guaranteed that they are followed.

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