Today, we are continuing our series on taking care of elderly relatives when they can no longer take care of themselves. Yesterday, we looked at several lesser-restrictive alternatives for dealing with the elderly individual’s finances. Today, we’ll look at several options for making important medical decisions on behalf of the elderly relative.
Medical Decision-Making Solutions
#1 – Medical Power of Attorney
Like the financial Power of Attorney we talked about yesterday, a Medical Power of Attorney can be a powerful tool. It allows an elderly individual to name a person whom they trust to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event that they cannot make those decisions for themselves. This can be extremely helpful in allowing a family member to step in and make important medical decisions when the elderly individual simply cannot make those decisions anymore.
Like the financial Power of Attorney, though, the Medical Power of Attorney must have been signed before the elderly individual lost their capacity.
#2 – Surrogate Decision Making
Texas Law provides a way for family members to make non-emergency medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated adult (See Section 313.001-.007 of the Health and Safety Code). These sections provide a decision-maker priority list for these decisions:
(1) the patient’s spouse; (2) an adult child of the patient who has the waiver and consent of all other qualified adult children of the patient to act as the sole decision-maker; (3) a majority of the patient’s reasonably available adult children; (4) the patient’s parents; or (5) the individual clearly identified to act for the patient by the patient before the patient became incapacitated, the patient’s nearest living relative, or a member of the clergy.
These provisions only apply to non-emergency decisions, and are only applicable when it is clear that the elderly individual is incapacitated (e.g. when they are in a coma). Likewise, these provisions do not allow the family to make end-of-life decisions concerning whether or not to withdraw life support). So, while these provisions are certainly very helpful, they may not cover all situations (like a Medical Power of Attorney would).
So, as you can see, there are certainly some alternatives to help your relative make medical decisions. However, in many situations, these work-arounds are simply not enough. In those situations, a full Guardianship may be required. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
Note: If you have any questions about helping an elderly parent or relative, give our Probate Lawyers a call at 214-236-2712 or click here for more information. We would be happy to sit down with you and your family and develop a strategy for effectively taking care of your elderly relative.