When our son was born, my husband, Mark, and I wanted to be sure we had things set for his care should we become incapacitated and unable to care for him. We interviewed, shopped rates and selected an attorney with whom we felt we could work. He asked some direct questions about things we hadn’t considered but were good things to think about, and we learned about documents such as Advanced Directives and Powers of Attorney. What are these? What do they do for any one?
We learned that with advance planning, we have a say in our medical care if we are rendered unable to make our own medical decisions because of an accident (for example, brain trauma) or through illness (possibly through dementia). While we have our capabilities, we can say who and what care we want should such an unfortunate event occur. This is done through an Advanced Directives document.
There are procedures if you don’t have an Advanced Directive in place depending on where you live, but you will be surprised who can step in and make those choices for you when you can’t do so for yourself and do not have an Advanced Directive.
In many cases, your spouse can make these important decisions for you, but what if they aren’t up to the task? Some aren’t. Then you’re in a pickle. So, having an Advanced Directive is smart.
Mark and I also learned about Powers of Attorney. These are documents where you designate who will handle your financial affairs should you be unable to do so. Who do you want to have access to your checking account to pay your bills? Who will handle any stocks, bonds or investment properties you may own? If you are unable to, who do you want to take care of your Medicare coverage, Medicaid coverage, social security, retirement benefits or taxes? If you need professional services, who will speak for you?
This assignment is something you make, and you can choose one or more people (depending on their skills and your confidence in them) to manage your affairs if you can’t. But, like Advanced Directives, Powers of Attorney must be done in advance of you losing your ability to decide for yourself.
Advanced Directives and Powers of Attorney are in effect while you are alive. Once you die, a will comes into effect. Your designated personal representative in your will takes over. This personal representative can be one of the people you’ve designed in your Advanced Directive, Power of Attorney or an entirely different person. These important documents should be done by a professional attorney who knows the laws in your state.
There is a third document that directs your wishes for medical care. This is called the Wyoming Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or the WyoPOLST. This document is accessible via the internet and The Hub on Smith, but you can also ask your primary care physician if they can give one to you.
The POLST directs first responders, emergency personnel, hospices and others of your wishes to be resuscitated or not. It is a simple double-sided form on yellow paper. It is done with your primary care provider and signed by them. You can change this as often as you wish. It is highly recommended that your WyoPOLST and Advanced Directives agree.
The community is invited to a free community presentation on these documents Tuesday night at The Hub. It is an informational presentation by family law attorney Brendon Kerns and with Dr. Sy Thickman. The presentation is offered through The Hub’s “When I’m 64…or more” life planning lecture series that is offered at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. You don’t have to be 64 or more to attend. This is powerful information for families of all ages. Hope to see you there!
Lois Bell is a director at The Hub and the program coordinator for the free community presentations offered through the “When I’m 64…or more” life planning lectures series.