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 January 9

by Karen Purze

I’ve had a healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA)  for most of my adult life.

I think my mom asked me (maybe more than once) to sign one before I went to college so that if something happened to me she’d be authorized to talk with doctors and help. 

A Healthcare Power of Attorney document gives someone legal authority to talk with your doctors, speak on your behalf, and make medical treatment decisions for you when necessary.

Since that first document (which I’m sure I barely read), I’ve had four different HCPOA documents. I created a new one: 

  • When I joined the Peace Corps after college.
  • When I couldn’t find the one I did after college (probably years after I lost it.)
  • When I got married.
  • When my dad died (since he was named as a successor agent)

You can’t control when and where or if you’ll have a medical emergency. No use even thinking about that. You can, however, control how prepared you are. Today’s five-minute fix helps you think through who could help in an emergency, and how to give them guidance if you are incapacitated.

5-minute Fix: Download a free healthcare power of attorney form and read it.

It’s empowering to do this simple, ‘adult’ thing. You’ll feel really responsible and grown-up (in a good way!)

Here’s the trick: each state has its own requirements defining what must be in these forms in order to be legally valid. The good news is that there are several non-profit organizations that provide free, legally valid forms. I like Prepare for Your Care, which also offers a free tutorial to walk you through the choices. 

Prepare for Your Care
To get to this screen, click the “Continue as Guest” button when you go to the Prepare for Your Care site. Submit and download the form in Spanish or English.

If you spend significant time in another state, consider signing a form for each state (or consulting an attorney.)

These documents are intentionally designed to simplify a complex topic and help you understand the decisions you need to make. If you have a complicated health situation, more specific preferences that can’t be expressed in these forms, or questions about your unique circumstances, it might be a good idea to speak with an attorney. 

Even if you know you’re going to use an attorney to create the final document, I still encourage you to download the form, read it, and think about the role of a medical decision-maker.  

Sometimes the hard part isn’t making your choices “legal”, it’s making the decisions in the first place.  

Good luck, 

Karen Purze

P.S. If you already have a healthcare power of attorney document, get it out and read it. I took mine out this morning and discovered that I had two different documents in my files — the current one, and an old one (which is just confusing, even to me.) 

I also found something I might want to change…

If you’d like to stay in touch, you can subscribe to my mailing list or join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

About the author

Karen Purze is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She is currently working on a memoir about her caregiving experience. Sign up for the Life in Motion Guide newsletter to be the first to hear more!

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