A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) is a legal document that must be completed by the person while he or she is of sound mind. A DPAHC is a document that gives the agent or health care representative considerable authority to make decisions regarding housing, skilled home care services, medical care and end of life care decisions when an individual is no longer able to do so. The decisions made should be those that the person (principal) would want or prefer and should not be based upon what the agent prefers.
The DPAHC should clearly state the principal’s preferences and choices related to significant health care decisions like whether resuscitative efforts should be attempted, whether life support measures should be utilized and for how long, how aggressive treatment should be pursued, where health care services should be provided, what end of life preferences they have, and so forth.
A person completing a DPAHC in Minnesota should carefully consider who they name as their agent(s) or health care representative(s) to be someone they trust to carry out their wishes as this will be done when they are not able to communicate their wishes or carry them out due to incapacity or incompetency. The principal may name more than one agent if they prefer and they should designate whether the agents work together or independently to make decisions, most often a second person is named to assure someone is available if the first designee is unreachable, or unable themselves (i.e. an elderly spouse). If a change in the capacity or relationship with this person or persons occurs, such as dementia, death or divorce, this document should be reviewed and changed as needed.
The DPAHC can be changed or revoked by the principal as long as they are capable of doing so, otherwise it remains in effect until one of the following occurs: a spouse so named is divorced from the principal (varies state-to-state), a judge deems the document as a whole to be invalid or revokes the powers of the health care agent or the principal dies.
It is not unusual for a Geriatric Care Manager to be called into a situation in which there is concern about the intention or ability of the agent(s) to assuredly work towards the best interest of the principal and to assist in determining what actual needs may be related to housing, skilled home care and medical or health related decisions.