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Health Care, Legal and Financial Resources

Most people want their wishes to be known about what type of care they want, who they want to be responsible for carrying out their wishes, or how they want their belongings to be handled should something happen to them. This information is relayed through various legal, health care and financial documents and resources, including:

Advance directives
– Advance directives are a combination of documents that tell your doctor what kind of care you would like to receive if you become unable to make medical decisions; it usually includes a living will and names a health care proxy.

There are three types of advance directives:

  • Proxy Directive (also called a durable power of attorney for health care): names a health care representative, such as a family member or friend, to make health care decisions on your behalf.
  • Instruction Directive (also called a Living Will): states what kinds of medical treatments you would accept or reject in certain situations.
  • Combined Directive: lets you name a health care representative (proxy), and also informs that person and the medical team of your treatment wishes.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
– A DNR is an order which can be included in a living will, that requests that health care professionals not use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you cease breathing.
Elder law attorneys
– Lawyers who are specifically educated to handle a broad aspect of seniors’ legal needs are called elder law attorneys. They often assist their clients with estate planning, wills, guardianship, planning for retirement or long-term health care planning.
– Guardianship is a legal process by which a professional person is court-appointed to represent someone who is unable to handle their own personal interests and does not have a responsible, trusted person to do so, such as a power of attorney. Guardianship happens for a variety of reasons, such as when the person has no family to help or their caregiver has exploited or abused them. Court appointed guardians act on behalf of the person and are involved with handling their housing, medical treatment and finances. Since guardianship often removes many rights of the individual, it is often considered only after alternative routes are proven to be ineffective interventions.
Living will
– This legal document tells your doctor what kind of care you would like to have if you become unable to make medical decisions due to a coma, cognitive impairment or other illness from which you are unlikely to recover. It includes information on treatments you may not want, such as a feeding tube or ventilator for artificial breathing.
Medical power of attorney or health care proxy
– This allows you to appoint a person you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so. It is important to discuss your care wishes with the person you select because they will be asked to carry out those wishes in the event you are incapacitated.
Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
– POLST is a medical order that is filled out with a physician or advance practice nurse and details your personal wishes regarding end-of-life care. The POLST is designed for those nearing the end of life and outlines goals of care, such as personal goals or family milestones you want to reach, and it also outlines preferences for resuscitation, ventilation and the scope of medical interventions. The POLST is also unique because it is valid and transferrable across all settings, including the hospital, healthcare facility and home. For more information about POLST, speak with your health care provider.
Power of attorney
– This defines a person (or persons) that you name to act on your behalf to handle your finances or property. Many people also name their power of attorney as their health care proxy or medical power of attorney.
– A Will is a legal document that outlines how you want your estate, including property and belongings, to be distributed after your death; it is possible to write your will yourself, however, most people choose to have an attorney’s assistance to avoid any legal mistakes.

The Healthy Aging Program at Atlantic Health System suggests the following helpful resources to assist seniors with health care, legal and financial needs: