You may be a mesothelioma patient but in the eyes of the law you are still an independent adult. And that’s a good thing. But it has its downsides.
What if you are not feeling well – which your medical treatment as a mesothelioma patient makes very likely — and you need a prescription picked up from the pharmacy? Or test results from a lab? Because of well-intended federal rules to protect patient privacy, even your spouse or adult offspring will not be able to get these for you. Unless you have a signed durable power of attorney for health care matters authorizing them to do so.
Or what if you need to have an IRA or savings CD cashed out to help pay for your medical expenses? And you are unable to go to the bank to sign all the papers? Someone you trust can do it for you if you have given them power of attorney for your finances.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act on your behalf. In case you become mentally incapacitated, you’ll need what are known as “durable” powers of attorney for medical care and finances. A durable power of attorney simply means that the document stays in effect if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own.
You need separate durable power of attorney documents for health care and your finances. It is important to keep copies (keep the original in a safe deposit box or with your attorney) of both of these handy because every pharmacy, doctor’s office and financial institution will want a copy on file before they will interact with your designated representative. Every receptionist or hospital technician will want to know whether your spouse or son or daughter is the “P.O.A.” (the abbreviation for “power of attorney”) before they will give them information they need for your care and well-being.
Do not delay on getting these documents in place. Without them, if you become too ill to take care of your health and finances, your family will have to go through expensive and lengthy court proceedings just to be able to take care of you.
Even though you should make separate power of attorney documents for health care and finances, it makes sense to name the same agent under both documents. Just make sure that the person you choose understands the responsibility for your care that they are agreeing to and will be able to be present when needed to act. Your life depends on it.