We find ourselves living in scary and uncertain times. One of the best gifts you can give to yourself and to your family during this time is the peace of mind in knowing that your health care decisions will be made appropriately if you cannot make them for yourself.
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a primary person and any number of backups to make health care decisions when you cannot. If you do not have a Health Care Power of Attorney, the North Carolina Statutes dictate who can make the decisions. A spouse is first; however, if there is no spouse, then a majority of the nearest living relatives make the decisions. This group include parents and adult children. Times of crisis breed disagreement, and it can be very stressful for the family and for the health care facility when quick decisions have to be made and there is no consensus. Because a Health Care Power of Attorney requires witnessing by two individuals who are not related and who are not employees of the health care facility where you are currently a patient, as well as notarization, it is crucial to have these documents in place before a medical issue arises.
In North Carolina, a Living Will allows you to provide additional direction in an end of life situation. You can also authorize your health care agent to make the final decision, acting in accordance with the wishes you have set forth in your Living Will. Ideally, you should have both a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will in place to cover all situations.
It has always been important to have these documents, but it is critically important during the current pandemic. If you have not executed these documents, you should contact your attorney to start the process. Lawyers have been categorized as essential businesses, and most are still operating from their office or from their home. Signings can be handled in parking lots with gloves and masks if necessary.
Hopefully, this situation will be over in the short term. Even if it is, you can rest assured that you have given your family and yourself a gift that will be valid for years to come.