When asked, “Who knows you best?” does a particular person come to mind? For me, it is my sister, Krista. She is the person who is always supportive, honest, and knows my values. That is why I know, as my Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA/Agent), she is the best person to make decisions when I am not able to.
I am not yet in my golden years, so you may be asking why I’ve bothered to set a Medical Durable Power of Attorney. I like to explain it using the example of proactively having an insurance plan. Unfortunately, especially during a pandemic, emergency situations arise at any age, and any time. You wouldn’t sign up for car insurance after you get in an accident or experience hail damage. You purchase insurance ahead of time in case of emergency, so you’re adequately covered. It is the same with assigning a decision maker. You don’t know whether you might get COVID and need to decide about ventilation, or get in a car accident, end up unconscious and unable to express your wishes. That is why everyone over 18 is encouraged to assign a decision maker. It is a great gift to your family and friends to appoint someone as your decision maker and discuss your wishes with them so everyone is informed. Throughout the pandemic, health care workers are witnessing families shouldering this responsibility with no established consensus about their loved one’s wishes. Decisions like these should be talked about early and often to ensure the values recorded are up to date with your current situation.
In Colorado, establishing your decision maker is relatively simple. To have a valid Medical Durable Power of Attorney, you simply complete a document with the name and contact information of the person(s) you are appointing and sign. After your signature, the document is valid. If you travel to other states, having the document notarized allows for it to be ‘durable’ and accepted in other states.
Another consideration, which makes this appointment so important, is that Colorado has a Proxy Law. This law means that, when there is not an appointed decision maker, the responsibility does not automatically go to the next of kin. Instead, all people involved with the incapacitated person are asked to identify and agree on who should be the decision maker. That means, for example, if the spouse and other family members disagree, there could be a delay in care and the individual finally designated decision maker may not be who the person would choose.
Ask yourself, who knows you best and are they the ones to be your Agent or Medical Durable Power of Attorney? If you can name that person, complete your documentation today and share it with your providers, health insurance company, and loved ones. If not, keep searching and talking about your wishes with those you trust. It might just be the best gift you give this year.
To learn more about advance care planning and resources available, please visit us at: https://www.civhc.org/programs-and-services/advance-care-planning/