Planning Ahead – Powers of Attorney and “living will”

Article posted July 2011

At our May Community meeting bioethicist Steve Abdool gave an important talk on the subject of “Advanced Care Planning” and how this will impact our Future Medical Care & Dignity. Steve is a recognized specialist in the field of Bioethics who works with St Michael’s Hospital, the University of Toronto and The Regional Centre For Ethics.

Although this is a difficult subject to talk about Steve provided insight into the nature and value of advanced care planning and doing this in a proper and meaningful way to keep individuals empowered regarding future care and medical treatments.

Although we all hope for the best through discussions with family members and loved ones we can make our wishes known. Much as we may not like to admit it, aging is universal and cannot be reversed. We cannot stop aging, and in many cases the illnesses that go with it, but we can plan ahead. Through planning ahead while we are able and of sound mind we can make known our wishes for the future. Although this may be very difficult to think about, preparing and planning for the future could ensure that everything is in place to meet our needs as we get older and will ensure everyone is aware of our wishes if there comes a time when we are unable to do things or make decisions for ourselves.

Many people believe their families will be able to step in if something happens and they cannot make decisions for themselves. This isn’t always true.

Having plans in place will normally include appointing a substitute decision maker in case you become unable to take care of yourself and your property. This is accomplished through a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf.

The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee in the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has a Power of Attorney Kit that will help you appoint the person you want to make decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so for yourself.

A Power of Attorney kit is a booklet containing forms for making Power of Attorney arrangements. By making Powers of Attorney, people can plan ahead to make sure their wishes are carried out.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney. There is acontinuing power of attorney for property in which for example you can name someone to make financial decisions for you, such as paying your bills.

For personal care and health decisions such as where you live, what you eat or what medical care you will receive if you get sick or injured, you can name someone in a power of attorney for personal care.

A Power of Attorney is not the same as a “living will’ A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you name a specific person to act on your behalf. A “living will” contains your treatment and personal care wishes and does not need to name anyone or be written in a certain way

No one can make you sign a power of attorney if you don’t want to. But, if you don’t choose one, the government may have to appoint someone to make certain decisions for you. It’s better if you choose someone you feel you can really trust, who knows your wishes.

This article quotes in places directly from the website for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General and is written for information purposes only. Anyone writing either a Power of Attorney or “living will” who has questions should seek appropriate advice to ensure their wishes are correctly documented and any legal requirements are correctly addressed.

To find out more information please CLICK HERE to go directly to the website for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General

You can also CLICK HERE to go straight to the website for the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee and follow the link to Powers of Attorney where you will find information about Powers of Attorney and “living wills”. You will also be able to download a Power of Attorney Kit.

The University of Toronto also has information on their website for Advanced Care Planning. To see one of their brochures on this subject please CLICK HERE