As part of my master’s degree in social work I was required to work in internships in order to gain direct practice with clients. One of the placements I chose was a nursing home setting. I learned so much at this placement, including the medical issue seniors must face daily. One thing we, as a staff, encouraged was for each resident to obtain a medical power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney is an individual you appoint to make medical decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes to the doctors caring for you. Some situations in which medical power of attorneys may need to make medical decisions include when someone is in an irreversible coma, temporary coma, or is otherwise incapacitated to make his or her own wishes known. Further, a medical power of attorney can make decisions for the individual in situations where he or she is not being kept alive by life support; the medical power of attorney has the power to make medical decisions for an individual in any situation the individual is incapacitated or otherwise not able to communicate. A medical power of attorney is useful at times to back up an individual’s living will.
Some individuals obtain medical power of attorneys for short, specific periods of time. For instance, a mother might appoint her daughter to be her medical power of attorney while she is in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. Other individuals obtain medical power of attorneys for longer, indefinite periods of time. This is often the case with elderly individuals. They might appoint a daughter, son, or close friend to make medical decisions for them if or when they cannot do so themselves.
There are several things to consider when trying to select a power of attorney for yourself. The individual you select needs to know exactly what your wishes are; it is a good idea to write down and then talk about what you would like to happen to you given different circumstances or situations. Continue to keep lines of communication open between yourself and your medical power of attorney.
One of the most important issues you need to consider when selecting someone to make medical decisions for you in certain cases is trust. It is imperative that you be able to trust your selected medical power of attorney. Being able to trust your selected individual will allow you to rest more easily in medical emergencies. You will also know that the individual you have selected to act on your behalf will follow your wishes to the best of their ability.
Picking an objective individual may also be an important factor in the selection process. Selecting someone objective such as a lawyer will be able to make medical decisions for you, following your wishes and needs, without having a personal interest in the matter, whereas a family member or friend will have a personal interest in the case. Family members or friends may try to follow your wishes, but may possess difficulty doing so due to their personal feelings about you.
Selecting a medical power of attorney is a significant decision. This information may help you begin to decide whom to appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and/or unable to communicate your wishes and needs to medical professionals.