The legal needs of seniors are varied and numerous. What was once easy for us becomes very difficult as we age. Possibly we are becoming a bit more forgetful, or we’re experiencing difficulty with our mobility; perhaps some people we regularly depended on are no longer accessible to us, and we are beginning to stay home more. Acknowledging the legal needs of the elderly, numerous attorneys have instituted practices specifically designated to serve the elderly client – they are known as elder law attorneys.
Instead of being defined by the technical legal distinction, elder law is determined by the client to be succored. That is to say, the lawyer who practices elder law may attend to a range of issues but has a specific type of clientele – seniors.
Under the scope of this approach, the elder law attorney handles the issues that elderly clientele are up against, such as social security, health care, income stability, Medicare, and Medicaid, among other problems. It’s crucial to be well-informed about resolutions that can be made quickly and inexpensively while the senior is still competent.
However, once impairment has come about, decision-making for the elder will be very restricted. Working diligently to ensure that the elder’s right to quality and compassionate care is the overriding mission of the elder law attorney.
Below are several critical documents for senior citizens that can make that arrangement a relatively simple process.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) grants a person the legal right to handle matters on behalf of another person. The person designated as the DPOA has the power to conduct all matters for the person in almost every area of life, including:
- Estate trust and beneficiary transactions
- Personal and family maintenance issues
- Government benefits
- Financial investments
- Real Estate
The authority granted in the DPOA becomes binding immediately after the document is signed. The rights granted in the DPOA remain until the person who issued it perishes. When you or your loved one finish completing the DPOA, check that it satisfies the legal requirements of the state of residence.
Health Care Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy
Designating a Health Care Power of Attorney, also known as a Health Care Proxy, is one of the most crucial steps that an individual can make to ensure that their wishes are honored if they cannot make a medically-related decision for themselves. The documents are accessible online and through your physician or local hospital.
The person designated as the Health Care Power of Attorney or proxy must understand the senior’s wishes clearly. For that reason, discussions that openly and honestly discuss possible scenarios, especially ones that may result in the ending of life, are necessary. These conversations should be held frequently, in case the senior’s desires change.
Naturally, being designated a Health Care proxy is a weighty responsibility. The person appointed as a proxy must be willing to assertively defend the senior’s desires despite the opposition they may encounter. The proxy also has the authority to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the individual should they be unable to speak for themselves. That can potentially create challenging circumstances for the proxy.
For instance, the proxy may be aware that the senior requested that under no circumstances should they be resuscitated. Should death occur, family members may object that wish, expecting every medical intervention available to save the person’s life. In this scenario, the proxy’s responsibility is to defend the senior’s preferences vigorously and to deny the concerned family members.
The proxy takes effect only when the physician, family, or hospital diagnoses that the individual is unable to make decisions for themselves or cannot communicate their wishes. As with all other legal documents, check with the state’s Department of Elder Affairs to guarantee the proxy fulfills the state’s legal requirements.
A living will is a variety of Advance Directive. It is a written document which states the individual’s desires for the end of life. There is some controversy regarding living wills, and not all hospitals recognize them as legal and binding. However, they do notify physicians and other providers about the individual’s wishes should the need for the Health Care Proxy to make medical decisions arise. You can obtain a living will document at the U.S. Living Will Registry.
Do Not Resuscitate and Do Not Intubate
When it comes to resuscitation and intubation used to save lives, these two documents are essential to articulate the senior’s desires.
Resuscitation may involve the use of a defibrillator, chest compressions, and CPR, which can save a life but are also very physical medical processes that can cause damage to a frail senior’s body. You and your loved one can receive advice on whether or not to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) by having an open and honest discussion with your physician and asking them to describe the CPR process. Bear in mind that when a doctor signs a DNR, it becomes a legally binding document.
A Do Not Intubate (DNI) order expresses that the senior does not want a breathing tube inserted to keep them alive. For the pros and cons of this order, speak with a respiratory therapist who can describe the intubation process in detail.
Once finalized, file the document with the physician and others, as mentioned in the beginning. However, with the DNR/DNI orders, it is essential to also post it in a salient location in the house where emergency response personnel can see it.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and trusts are legal documents for the distribution of property and possession, which can be prepared with an attorney.
Advance Directives are one of the most important documents that a senior can prepare. An Advance Directive is a collection of documents that include precise written instructions concerning the senior’s preferences for medical treatment and comfort at the end of life. It will represent the individual should they become incapacitated.
In a few states, an Advance Directive is one specified document particularizing medical care and comfort, which helps a senior to articulate the extent of life-saving care they want with clarity such as:
- Organ or tissue donation
- Resuscitation if the heart or breathing stops
- Use of life support machines including breathing machines and dialysis
- Feeding through a tube
In other states, an Advance Directive incorporates the information mentioned above as well as a living will, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or Do Not Intubate (DNI) order, and a Health Care Power of Attorney/ Health Care Proxy.
The document also allows the opportunity for the senior to state the sorts of comfort they would prefer to have while dying, including things such as family members, music, and comfortable blankets. An Advance Directive can be drawn up without a lawyer and are easy to obtain.
Completing these documents requires careful deliberation. They are indispensable to retain authority over one’s life during illness and death. Naturally, it is a possibility that it is challenging to consider. However, assembling these documents gives an entrusted friend or family member the information they need to fight for your requests when you can no longer make them for yourself to emergency personnel or physicians.
Schedule a Consultation Today to Discuss Legal Documents for Seniors
Our team of attorneys has over 35 years of experience helping seniors with elder law matters relating to Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, Living Wills, DNR and DNI orders, Wills, Trusts, and Advance Directives. We welcome you to call the Voeller Law Firm today at (210) 651-3851 to request a consultation and learn more about legal documents all seniors should have. We are proud to serve the greater San Antonio, Bexar County, Comal County, Guadalupe County, and South Texas areas.