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Health care power of attorney part of long term care planning

Almost no one in New York or anywhere else wants to talk about their end-of-life issues and how they should be dealt with. It's a situation few people are comfortable with and even fewer are equipped to handle. Regardless of the discomfort it causes to discuss, a health care power of attorney can be an invaluable component of long term care planning -- providing an action plan of sorts for others to follow on the maker's behalf.

How does one set up a health care power of attorney? First, determine the identity of the healthcare advocate. This is the person entrusted to make the hard decisions when the person requiring assistance cannot. In many cases, it is the person's spouse. That is certainly not required and, in some cases, may not be recommended.

Determine the parameters of care before they are needed. It is important that the person trusted with making health decisions for someone else be aware of that person's wishes when it comes to treatment. Once the person can no longer make those types of determinations, it is too late to get their input. With that in mind, remember to write it all down. A written record will preserve the decisions that were so difficult to reach.

Determine what's important. This is a highly individualized thing. What is vital for one person will be irrelevant to another. Discussion with family and friends can help define the list of top priorities and help ensure they're met when the time comes.

Finally, it is important to understand New York law and how it applies to the individual's situation. Healthcare powers of attorney can be complicated documents that deal with sensitive topics. Having someone trustworthy and qualified to work with when completing long term care planning can bring peace of mind to everyone involved.

Source: CNN, Advance directives and living wills: No one wants to talk about dying, Jacque Wilson, Jan. 12, 2014

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