A Health Care Power of Attorney or Appointment of Health Care Representative is a document which sets forth a list of individuals that you delegate authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. In the event you are incapacitated and unable to consent to health care measures on your own behalf, these documents will ensure that the individuals you select make those decisions for you and that they are guided by your wishes and beliefs. Without a health care power of attorney, your loved ones may need to seek a guardianship through the court system to make decision about your care.

What documents are needed?

There are three documents used to make health care decisions in the state of Indiana: (Michigan the same?)

  • The Health Care Power of Attorney;
  • Appointment of Health Care Representative;
  • Living will.

(Some attorneys will combine these three documents and some will combine them with a financial Power of Attorney.)

What is a Living Will?

In Indiana and Michigan, a Living Will states your wishes with respect to artificially supplied nutrition and hydration (tube feedings) if you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state. When you sign a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney, you should deliver copies to your physicians and to those individuals that you have named to act on your behalf. This is an opportunity to discuss with them what your wishes are with respect to health care and end of life treatment.

Things to Consider

You should consider who to name as your health care representative. Generally, this would be a spouse or adult child. Keep in mind that the health care power of attorney also acts as a HIPAA release, meaning that the person holding the power has access to your health care records. A guide to help with this discussion is the “Five Wishes” document found at https://www.agingwithdignity.org/. Although this document is not legally binding in the state of Indiana, it is an excellent framework for discussion.

If you have not established Power of Attorney and a Living Will, or would like to update existing documents, call Certified Elder Law Attorney, Jennifer L. VanderVeen, at (574) 232-3538 for an appointment.