National Healthcare Decisions Day started more than a decade ago. It always falls on the day after Tax Day in hopes of getting people to start thinking about advance care planning. Whether your parents are downsizing and making a move to a new location or want to age at home, they need to have a care plan in mind.
In addition to the discussions you and your parents need to have about their ability to complete activities of daily living, you also need to talk to them about advance directives and powers of attorney. If they don’t have these protections in place, it’s time for them to take that step.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive or living will is a legal form that tells healthcare professionals what a person would or wouldn’t want to do in different situations. It covers issues like whether you’d want to be kept alive by machines, put on a ventilator while you recover from a disease, or given a feeding tube.
You can discuss your wishes for organ and tissue donation. It’s also a good place to make it known if your religious beliefs prevent you from accepting blood or surgeries. Advance directives also can include DNR orders. In some states, “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST) is discussed with your parent’s doctor and signed by both the doctor and your parent.
There are forms online that you can print out and sign in front of a notary. A trip to an elder law attorney can also ensure these forms are completed correctly and filed with doctors.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney is also important. If something happens to your parent and they cannot speak up, they can name a person (an agent) they trust to make medical decisions for them. If your dad had a stroke and was unable to speak, he could name you as his power of attorney and have you make decisions.
There is also a financial power of attorney. If your parents can’t pay their bills or make financial decisions, a power of attorney gives an agent permission to help. Again, your mom or dad picks the person they trust to make these decisions.
With a power of attorney, a full recovery revokes the agent’s power until or if it’s needed again. It doesn’t have to be a permanent role.
Help With Activities of Daily Living
The final part of a care plan is to make sure your parents are able to live independently. Senior care aides help with this. Senior care aides can cook, clean, and help your parents at home or at area medical centers or stores.