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Last week I wrote about the .importance of updating your will after major life events. Another important consideration is choosing a Power of Attorney (POA) for Personal Care.
While it can be hard to think about, your Power of Attorney for Personal Care will make important decisions on your behalf when you no longer have the mental capacity. These can include decisions about medical treatment, housing, food, hygiene, clothing and safety.
When choosing a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, there are some important considerations: Will he/she be available when you need them? Will he/she be able to advocate for you in a hospital or other care facility? Does he/she understand the risks and benefits of the treatments that may be proposed? Does he/she understand your values, beliefs and wishes and will make decisions that respect them?
If you don’t have a Power of Attorney, a family member has the right to make your health care decisions. Alternatively, someone else – such as a close friend – could apply to act for you in these matters. The government, through the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT), acts only in situations where no other suitable person is available, able and willing.
The law does not require you to use a lawyer’s services. However, you may wish to consider hiring a lawyer, especially if your affairs are complicated. If you don’t want a lawyer to draft your Power of Attorney, some bookstores sell forms and there are also some forms on the Internet. The OPGT provides forms for both power of attorney for property and personal care and can be accessed on-line.
The most important thing, according to Toronto-area lawyer Mark Handelman, is that you discuss your values and wishes should you become incapable of making decisions, with your loved ones. These conversations, while they may be difficult, are invaluable and can even help avoid potential litigation or family turmoil during challenging times, including end of life decisions.
Like your will, you should review your Power of Attorney for Personal Care every few years as circumstances change.
IEF: Power of Attorney and Living Wills