In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that allows another person, which you designate, to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated. The decision of who to give Health Care Power of Attorney is important, because it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

If incapacitated, there may be decisions other than “life and death” that need to be made, such as nursing home options and medical treatments.

When it comes to your Health Care Power of Attorney, here are a few items to consider:

Marriage and Your Power of Attorney

Many people ask if it’s necessary to have a Health Care Power of Attorney if they are already married. The answer is a most definite “Yes”!

If you are married and decide not to make someone a Health Care  Power of Attorney, then there could be a major issue should you become incapacitated.  Without a Health Care Power of Attorney, the doctors will ask your family to make decisions. Remember Terry Shiavo? That battle dragged on between her parents and husband for years, and became a national debate.

Most people will make their spouse their Health Care Power of Attorney, but it’s a good idea to also name an alternative in case your spouse is incapacitated as well (i.e., in the case of an auto accident).

A Matter of Trust

Do you trust the person you’ve made your Health Care Power of Attorney? They will have to make many decisions, and may have control of some of your finances if you have granted them that power, should you become incapacitated.

If you made your spouse your Health Care Power of Attorney, and you become estranged or have gone through a divorce, you will probably want to make a change.

Did you make a friend your Health Care Power of Attorney? If so, are you still in touch with them? Are you on good terms?

Or perhaps the person you made Health Care Power of Attorney has passed away, or moved to another part of the country (or world). It may be time to review your decision.

Type of Treatment

If you are incapacitated, to what extent do you want treatment to go? Do you want to limit treatment in some scenarios?

You may want the healthcare provider to attempt all treatments, but perhaps end them if they don’t work in a certain period of time. Or you may wish to limit treatment that has little or no chance of working. You may also consider limiting treatments if you need machines to survive, are in a tremendous amount of pain, or can’t communicate with or recognize loved ones or friends.

When it comes to treatment, there are many options to consider when creating your Health Care Power of Attorney.

The best way to begin the process is to contact a knowledgeable estate attorney that can walk you through the process, and ensure that you have all of your concerns answered.