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Maintaining Independence as We Age

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Advance Directives improve Independence

This is also the time to consider what plans are in place to ensure you can maintain your own independence in the coming years. This includes creating or updating your estate plan, to be sure it reflects your wishes for your future and your family’s future.

Gathering with the family for an Independence Day celebration is a heartwarming time for the family’s oldest members. It’s a time to celebrate our great nation’s independence, but also a time to take a long look at the generations of the family gathered around the table, making you proud and hopeful for the future.

This is also the time to consider what plans are in place to ensure you can maintain your own independence in the coming years. This includes creating or updating your estate plan, to be sure it reflects your wishes for your future, and your family’s future. Your planning may also include preparing for long-term care and avoiding burdensome estate taxes.

Planning in case of incapacity is an important part of your estate plan. It makes it possible for someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, should you become too sick or injured to be able to manage your own affairs or communicate your wishes.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

This document names the person you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf, if your physician determines you are unable to speak for yourself. The document needs to be current, as healthcare facilities are reluctant to rely on outdated forms. Your first choice for your decision-making Agent may be an adult child or another family member, but it is wise to name a person who is calm in emergencies and will be able to make tough decisions if necessary.  Everyone over the age of 18 should designate their preferred Agent, and alternate Agents, in case of incapacity.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

This document gives the named Agent the ability to act on your behalf in the business aspects of your life. That can include everything from paying household bills and keeping an eye on your investment accounts to selling your home. An experienced estate planning attorney can create a customized POA so you can be confident it will give the person you name the level of control you want.  The attorney can even build in safeguards requiring accountability reporting.

Living Will or Directive to Physicians

These documents are used to give directions about your preference for medical care if you’re seriously ill, in a coma or near death. It is a means to establish your wishes concerning what treatments you don’t want as much as what you do want. Having a living will can avoid family arguments about what you wanted …or having to guess your wishes, which can haunt decision makers. Do you want to be kept alive by artificial means, and if so, what treatments are acceptable and what are not? Would you wish to donate your organs or your body for scientific study? All of these questions can be addressed in the living will.

Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate (OOH DNR)

An OOH DNR is used to tell medical providers and emergency medical teams not to try to restart your heart or lungs if they have failed. It’s important to have this document with you, in your home or a healthcare facility. If the DNR is with your daughter who lives several hours away, healthcare providers are legally bound in most states to use CPR to bring you back to life.  This form is completed after discussion with your physician, and must be signed by the physician.

General HIPAA Release

You’ll want a General HIPAA Release to allow medical care providers to share and discuss medical records with the person of your choice. HIPAA is a federal law created to protect patient privacy and violations come with hefty fines for hospitals, doctors, and healthcare facilities. The person (or people) you name should be someone who will be most involved with your care.

Other Considerations

A list of medications and healthcare providers can be essential if you become incapacitated, or need emergency care. This is not a legal document, but it will be helpful to family members and healthcare providers if it’s ever needed. Create a list of all treating physicians with the doctor’s name and phone number. If your providers use a patient-facing portal, find out if they are permitted to let someone else access your account. If you take multiple medications, you could simply affix labels from empty prescription bottles to a sheet of paper to provide information on the medication and the pharmacy.

All of these documents will help you maintain your wishes and independence if you become incapacitated or are hospitalized.  Consider it a mark of your own independence, as you decide how you wish to handle the challenges of aging.

The next step is to contact an experienced Estate Planning Elder Law AttorneyBook a Call with McNair Dallas Law today.

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