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Do I need a medical power of attorney?

As you age, your health becomes a top priority. However, what happens if there is an emergency and you can no longer express your wishes?

What are medical powers of attorney?

medical power of attorney — also referred to as a healthcare directive or a living will — is a legal document that details your medical preferences should you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Questions that can be covered in the document commonly include:

  • Resuscitation. Do you want CPR to be performed on you if you need it? The force needed for resuscitation can break a person’s ribs.
  • Ventilator. Do you want help breathing from a ventilator? If you are on a ventilator for a long period, a doctor might want to perform a tracheotomy where an incision is made in your neck and a breathing tube inserted.
  • Nutrition and hydration. If you cannot eat, do you want to use a feeding tube? It could go through your nose to your stomach or be surgically inserted through the abdomen. Do you want hydration via IV fluids?
  • Comfort. Separate from your medical treatments, how would you like to be soothed and your suffering relieved? This could include directions for limiting testing, giving counseling or providing pain medication.

Whoever is providing your care will be obligated to follow your directives. The document names a person to be your “health care agent.” Your agent will make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself. In this case, the doctors and healthcare providers will have to follow the agent’s orders when it comes to your treatment.

Your health is paramount as you enter your twilight years. More than a third of Americans realize this and put healthcare directives in place. These powers of attorney can direct care for your body, mind and soul if you become incapacitated. It might be tempting to put this off for a while, but acting early rather than later could help you with unforeseen health problems.

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