Can A Power Of Attorney Document Be Used For Medical Decisions?

The Durable Power of Attorney document does not cover any aspects of healthcare choices, such as medical decisions. The permission needed to make someone's healthcare decisions is a different document, sometimes called a "power of attorney for healthcare" or Advance Healthcare Directive. Some states call it a "living will." Whatever it is called where you live, it is specifically for health care decisions, and does not deal with money or other business matters. If you have a healthcare power of attorney in some form, it will not permit you to sign checks, sell the house, or close bank accounts. Two separate documents are needed to do good planning for the future: a Durable Power of Attorney (some call it a financial power of attorney) and a Healthcare Directive, or healthcare power of attorney.

Sometimes, members of the U.S. military give a power of attorney document to the spouse at home when they must go off to serve for an extended period of out-of-country military duty. The spouse at home is then able to take out a mortgage on the house, sell property, open or close bank accounts, pay bills, and conduct other financial business without the spouse who also owns the house, property, bank accounts, and so on.

The Durable Power of Attorney document referred to in this chapter is quite similar in regard to what it allows someone to do for an elder. The difference is that a DPOA continues when someone loses capacity to make decisions. The other version of a power of attorney one might have someone use while a person is out of the country is no longer valid when or if the original signer loses the capacity to make financial decisions, as it is not necessarily permanent.

This article has been adapted from The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents, the Complete Guide by Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., Attorney. The nine-part series, also available in audio format, expertly delves into all the issues that an adult child can face while caring for an aging parent. The series includes knowledgeable legal and healthcare advice for handling everything from dangerous drivers, an elder's money to resolving family conflicts—and all with an approachable tone and real-world advice for how to start difficult conversations and find solutions that work for you and your family members.