Who decides when you can’t?

Image: Who decides when you can’t?

In this session of Caregiver Tip Tuesday we take a look at the importance of Advanced Care Planning.

Most people take certain things for granted. We all expect to be able to decide things for ourselves like where we want to live, what we want to eat, what we want to wear, when we want to bathe, where to spend our money – these are things that allow us to feel in control of our own life. These are things we think we will always be able to do for ourselves. But, what if one day you can’t? What if because of an illness or an injury, this is taken away from you? Who will make these decisions for you? Have you ever discussed it with someone else? Have you ever asked someone to make decisions for you if you become unable to? Have you done so in writing?

This is not something anyone wants to think about, never mind talk about however, it is a very important to discuss this with people you care about while you are capable, regardless of age or situation because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

Planning for what you would like to happen, in the event that you need someone else to make decisions for you in the future is called “Advance Care Planning” and the legal documents that support this are a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. Every person over 18 years of age should have both.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document that appoints one or more people the right to make decisions on your behalf that specifically relate to your care or treatment if you are deemed incapable of making those decisions for yourself. Your “attorney” should be the person or persons you trust and they are your “substitute decision maker(s)”. They should be someone who knows you and what you would want in most situations. They should be someone willing to support & uphold your values and beliefs, in the event that they are asked to make a decision on your behalf. It would be best if you had conversations with that person about your wishes in the event that you require care/medical intervention in the future.

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that allows at least one person to act on your behalf if you become incapable of managing your financial affairs. This person can be but does not have to be, the same person as your substitute decision maker. You should trust that the person or persons can properly manage your financial affairs as they will have full authority to manage your money and property.

You do not need a lawyer to draft your Powers of Attorney though, it would be wise to consult one and have him/her prepare the necessary documents. If you choose not to have a lawyer create one for you, and you live in Ontario, Canada you may download a basic form at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/poa.pdf that you can complete on your own.

Once completed, keep the originals in a safe place and make sure that you have at least one copy that is easily accessible. Ensure those you have asked to be your attorney(s) are aware of their potential responsibilities and tell them of the whereabouts of the original documents.

Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW is a former acute care hospital social worker, the author of the annual Ontario publication the "Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living & Long-Term Care®" and administrator of the affiliated national website http://www.senioropolis.com She is a seasoned lecturer and former educator at U of T School of Continuing Studies, sharing her knowledge with professionals, seniors and their families, by giving workshops and lectures at various venues on 'Senior Living Options' and related topics. Esther can be contacted at info@senioropolis.com