When speaking about power of attorneys, there are two that would generally apply to healthcare: 1. Medical Power of Attorneys only concerns decisions based on medical care. 2. Healthcare Power of Attorneys (general or limited): "A healthcare power of attorney can be limited or general. Learn the differences between these two types of healthcare powers of attorney here. A healthcare power of attorney is the document that appoints conservatorship for your estate. Conservatorship is the position of a person to make your financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated or disabled to the point that you could not make these decisions on your own. Once you have been found incompetent, the conservator (the person who holds the conservatorship) must take control of all finances. The big difference between a conservator and the successor in a living trust is that the successor only takes control of the assets after your death. In a healthcare power of attorney, you are planning for someone to possibly take over your finances while you are still alive. Some financial planners believe that a healthcare power of attorney and appointing conservatorship is more important than who you choose to be a successor trustee in your living trust, simply because you will be alive while it is going on. Not only will you be alive, but you will also be dependant on whomever you choose" (Estateplancenter, n.d.). What are the pros and cons of each? Reference Estateplancenter. (n.d.). Healthcare Power of Attorney. Retrieved on November 26, 2013, from http://www.estateplancenter.com/power-of-attorney-5/healthcare-power-of-attorney-44.html
This decision and the difference between the two is critical to understand. As I have been and am both, the pros and cons of each affect how you live and die. In the Medical Power of Attorney, the PROS are that the person with that power can make medical decisions for you based on your will and the powers detailed. If your will states that you do not want extraordinary measures taken or have an actual Do Not Resusitate order, the person details and enforces that decision with the medical professionals. If the doctors want to do a medical procedure that don't want such as removal of a diseased kidney, your wishes and the power of medical attorney supercedes that of the doctors caring for you. The CONS of this Medical Power of Attorney is that it is limited to medical decisions and the person must follow your wishes even if the will is outdated with ideas you have expressed since.
The Healthcare Power of Attorney PROS are that the person can deal with medical plus financial issues. Financial issues are as important to the quality of life as the medical issues. I currently have removed my person from his home of 50 years against his wishes to place him in assisted living for his own safety. He does not have the power to change this decision which is what he at first wanted to do. I and my husband make all the decisions for him including where his assets should be placed, where he should live, and what his medical care will be. He no longer has to worry about bills, decisions or money. The CONS of this Healthcare Power of Attorney is that you are still alive, the decisions made affect you, and as we all know, many elderly have been cheated out of money which was intended for their care. Elderly abuse is real and you are at the mercy of whomever you chose for this position. Another con that few think about is the tremendous amount of work it is to have the healthcare power of attorney. We spend hundreds of hours a year without pay to take care of an elderly cousin. There is a small stipend at the end which does not come close to the number of hours we put in. Many estates are small and simple. This one is not which no one knew when we signed on. I don't regret it, but I never quite believe the time it takes to make good decisions for him which he trusted us to do.