Being seriously ill can make us feel helpless. You might have to depend on someone else to feed you or keep you clean and clothed. You might not be able to work or to care for your family.
Now, imagine that the illness affects your memory or comprehension. You might not be able to talk to your doctor about your condition and options for treatment or end-of-life care. As a result, you could receive treatment you do not want, such as being hooked up to a ventilator while in a vegetative state.
Fortunately, you can do more than hope your family and doctor will follow your wishes if you suffer from dementia or memory loss. You can include a healthcare power of attorney and living will in your estate plan.
Available to virtually everybody
Like most states, Pennsylvania recognizes a healthcare power of attorney to authorize an agent to have access to medical information and to help make medical decisions if the principal cannot do so for themselves. Pennsylvania also recognizes the living will as an instrument to direct your doctors about what end-of-life care you want or do not want. Anybody who is mentally competent can create a living will as long as they are at least one of the following:
- Eighteen years old or older.
- A high school graduate.
The contents of your healthcare power of attorney or living will are largely up to you. Everyone has different opinions regarding medical care or end-of-life care based on their values, religious beliefs and experiences. For example, some people would want their doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive. Others would not want machines to extend their life under any circumstances. Still other people fall somewhere in between.
Above all, your healthcare power of attorney and living will should consider virtually any potential situation to be maximally effective. Your estate planning attorney will go over these scenarios with you.