Life’s Unexpected Events
One month after my mom wrote Make Sure Your Loved Ones Have One, a blog about the importance of having a Health Care Power of Attorney document, an unexpected tragedy happened. My dad was badly injured by high voltage power lines. When he arrived at the hospital, they immediately put him into a medically induced coma. He had never appointed a health care agent and had not discussed his preferences, at least not with me. When I arrived at the hospital, the priest was already giving him last rites. I was told that, by law, I was his health care agent and would need to make medical decisions for him.
I’m sure that if my dad knew that I would be the one who would have to make all of the decisions, he would have had his legal documents in order. I realized right away that being someone’s health care agent is a burden, not a gift. It is a burden that someone takes on because they want what’s best for you. I want what’s best for my dad, too, but I do not think a twenty-one year old is best for the job. Thankfully, with the quick work of an attorney, I was able to at least temporarily give his mom, my grandmother, the decision-making job. There will still need to be ‘guardianship proceedings’ in court, which cost money and take time. I really wish my dad had changed his powers of attorney before his accident.
It is so important to know and understand that, in the state of Wisconsin, if you do not name a health care agent, the decision-making will fall to one of your loved ones in the following order: 1.) your spouse, 2.) an adult child of yours, 3.) your parent, 4.) an adult brother or sister, 5.) an adult grandparent, 6.) an adult grandchild, 7.) any adult who has knowledge of the individual’s preferences or values in regards to his/her health care decisions.
If you haven’t named your health care agent yet, take a look at mom’s blog. It will show you how to download a FREE power of attorney document from the State of Wisconsin. You just need to complete the form and then sign it in front of two witnesses. The American Bar Association, Commission on Law and Aging, has FREE resources about planning ahead for health care decisions here.