Why are advance directives important in elder law?

Making decisions about medical care is often a very personal experience. For some people in Georgia, the idea of not being able to make those decisions can be very uncomfortable. Advance directives are an important aspect of elder law that allow people to maintain a sense of control over their health even when they are incapacitated and otherwise unable to participate in their own care.

Advance directives are legal documents in which a person can outline the type of medical treatment that he or she is comfortable with. Individuals can also use advance directives to name a person responsible for making those choices. The former is a living will and the latter is a health care power of attorney. Having both a living will and power of attorney is important to make sure that someone will advocate for the wishes outlined in the document and to make decisions otherwise not addressed or covered.

Some people worry that creating these documents will automatically give another person’s the legal right to make medical decisions whenever and wherever. This is not the case. In general, these documents only kick in when doctors determine that a patient cannot make his or her own medical decisions or a patient develops a condition specified in the living will.

Dealing with matters related to elder law can be uncomfortable, as they often involve end-of-life planning. However, being uncomfortable is not a reason to overlook these important protections. By preparing a living will and health care power of attorney, elderly adults in Georgia can ensure continued control over their personal health care needs.

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