Understanding the Role of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care
In the event of mental incapacity, a Power of Attorney (POA) for Personal Care allows an individual to designate who will make care decisions on their behalf. Those who do not understand or appreciate the implications of a decision or inaction regarding personnel care are deemed incompetent.
A person may be capable of making certain decisions, but not all.
A person (the “grantor”) can use a POA to express specific wishes regarding medical treatment, shelter, safety, nutrition, and hygiene in the event of incapacity.
While the POA appoints a decision-maker, the attorney is usually referred to as such in medical records (even though a POA is actually the document itself). To make decisions and make arrangements for the grantor’s care, but not to directly provide care. Furthermore, the POA for personal care does not grant the attorney financial authority. This is a distinct responsibility delegated in a Property Power of Attorney.
The majority of healthcare professionals have heard of a substitute decision-maker (SDM). They are aware that when treating a patient who is unable to consent, the SDM must be consulted.
Health care professionals must refer to the Health Care Consent Act’s hierarchical list of individuals rather than the SDM. This Act names alternates in the event that the SDM is unable, unwilling, or otherwise unable to serve. The SDM could be a guardian, personal care agent named by the Consent and Capacity Board, a spouse, sibling, or parent.
As a result, contrary to popular belief, the attorney is not synonymous with SDM. Read on to learn more.
Why People Choose a POA
There are several reasons to execute a POA rather than rely on the SDM selection provisions of the Health Care Consent Act, such as:
Choosing a Decision-Maker
Patients do not always want their SDMs to be selected by default, as required by the Health Care Consent Act. When it comes to health care decisions, some people despise their parents, don’t want to burden their children, or would rather defer to a professional. A Personal Care Power of Attorney can be used to prevent family members from gaining access to a person’s health information.
Specifying Health-Care Preferences
In lieu of a living will, a power of attorney can be used. Donors can specify whether their organs will be used for therapeutic, educational, or scientific purposes. Long-term care, hospice care, and even diet may be among a person’s preferences.
While each SDM is legally required to honour a patient’s prior capable wishes, the POA allows those wishes to be expressed in writing, avoiding future ambiguity. The POA can be used to inform the SDM of the grantor’s wishes. It can also help to avoid family feuds, especially at the end of life, when relatives disagree on whether to withdraw life support.
It is always preferable to communicate with the proposed attorney both verbally and via the POA.
An SDM may consent to treatment, care facility admission, or personal assistance services on behalf of the grantor under the Health Care Consent Act. The attorney for personal care may make decisions about nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and safety under the Substitute Decisions Act.
The Likelihood of Granting Wishes
If a person’s wishes are not documented, it is up to decision-makers to accurately recall or infer them. The attorney must make a decision based on a known capable wish. A POA makes it more likely that the grantor’s decisions will be replicated.
To summarize, a power of attorney is used to exert control over one’s future and to specify what happens to one’s body if the grantor is unable to do so. So, before signing a power of attorney or hiring an attorney, seek legal advice. If there is a conflict or a concern about a POA, health care providers should consult with hospital counsel.
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