Every Adult Needs These Two Legal Documents

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Planning, Power of Attorney, Powers of Attorney |

This is a true story of a family that did not have legal documents and a plan in place before a sudden health crisis:    

Delia (not her real name), a 90-year old widow, has lived alone in her home for many years. Friends and family admire her independence.  A private person, Delia proudly manages her own affairs. She believes she will continue on this way until “something happens to me”.  Her children have asked her to talk to her lawyer about Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive but she dismisses their advice.

Then, Delia suffers a serious stroke and is admitted to hospital. The doctors discuss her competency and decide that she lacks the capacity to make decisions regarding her health and property. The family is told that Delia needs the professional care provided in a long-term care home.  

At the long-term care centre, the family is asked to make decisions regarding level of care. Do they want a “Do Not Resuscitate” order if their mother has serious complications or develops a life-threatening illness?

The family is not sure: one daughter says, “Mom would want everything done because she has always faced life head on”. But another sibling argues that “Mom would never want to continue living without her independence.”  Delia’s advance health care directive would have contained her wishes in writing.

To pay the care home fees and her other debts, the family realizes that Mom’s home must be sold.  Their realtor informs them that they do not have the legal right to sell the home. Delia needs to sign the agreement – but cannot do so.      

Family members also notice that other care centre residents have additional support from private companions and personal care aides. They decide that enhanced services would be a good idea for Mom, too. They go to the bank, where they are informed that, without a power of attorney, they cannot have access to Delia’s accounts. They must now apply for guardianship. They are also advised to contact a lawyer specializing in Elder Law.      

For the reasons outlined above, all adults – but especially seniors – need to have a Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive.

No one wants to imagine circumstances where they might have to give up control over financial and care decisions. But serious illness or accidents can happen to anyone at any time. Preparing these two documents can spare your loved ones anguish and ensure that your wishes are respected.  

For more insight and comprehensive Canadian resources,  consult the ElderWise e-guide,  Decide For Yourself: Why You Must Write Your POA and Advance Directive, available in our online store.

© ElderWise, 2010.
Vol. 6, No. 7
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