The prospect of taking care of a sick or disabled loved one can be very difficult. As a probate lawyer, I help my clients work through their concerns and worries about becoming a caregiver. And in my own life, I came face-to-face with the reality this week, when we discovered my mom had a stroke. When we realized what was happening, my mom, intransigent as ever, replied: “oh, okay, we’ll go see the doctor tomorrow.” I said, “absolutely not, Mom! We’re going to U of M! Get in the car!!” That was only the first head-smack moment in what was to be a thoroughly stressful evening. Upon arriving in Ann Arbor, my mother proceeded to make a slew of loud and inappropriate political comments to the U of M emergency room staff. While her jokes may have been funny, they also caused my cortisol levels to rise through the roof!
Thankfully, my mom is back home and making a good recovery. And yet, anyone who’s ever had a serious health problem knows that making it home is just the first step in a long, long road.
In fact, over the past few days, I’ve discovered my mom has made countless of follow-up medical appointments with doctors and nurses without anyone else knowing! Did she write them down? No. When are they? With which doctors? We don’t know! So I called around to the physicians, informing them that any communication about my mother’s medical care should first go to me.
One of the benefits of estate law in Michigan is the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care mechanism, which names an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of another in times of disability. I hold the durable power of attorney for health care of my mother, and thus am responsible, in part, with overseeing the progress of her medical care. It’s not always an easy job, as my experience handling my mother’s care makes clear. We have insurance and prescription issues, coordination and logistical problems – all the institutional chaos that comes with medical ordeals. But without the health care power of attorney, had my mother’s stroke been more significant would be in a much worse state of affairs, given I would not have had legal authority to oversee my mother’s care.
Planning for the people in your life is important, because life seldom gives you the luxury of time to plan. So is getting the support you need to make the right decisions. Durable powers of attorney make care-giving easier and more effective.