What is Power of Attorney for Healthcare?

An advance directive is a legal document that outlines your wishes for medical treatment in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It allows you to record what kind of medical treatment you may or may not want and write down those wishes before a health crisis occurs. It can help guide your loved ones and healthcare providers in making decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to communicate your wishes for yourself. One form of an advance directive allowed by Illinois law is called the Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare (POA-HC) is a legal document that allows you to choose someone to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to, or do not wish to, make decisions for yourself. The person you appoint is called your “healthcare agent.” Your agent should be someone who knows you well—someone who knows what is most important to you and what your wishes would be for medical treatment. This agent should also be someone who feels comfortable carrying out your healthcare wishes for you. Your agent has the authority to make any and all healthcare decisions when you are unable to make decisions for yourself, unless you state specific instructions or limitations on your POA-HC document. The POA-HC document is valid from the time you sign it until your death, unless you specify a limit or create a new POA-HC document.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I complete a Power of Attorney for Healthcare?

As soon as possible. The POA-HC is for all adults 18 or older who have decision-making capacity at the time of completion.

Can my loved one act as my agent if they live far away?

Yes. As long as your medical team is able to reach them and communicate with them over the phone, your loved one is able to serve as you POA-HC agent.

What happens if I don’t complete Power of Attorney for Healthcare and I become unable to make decisions for myself?

If you become too ill or experience an accident that renders you unable to make your own healthcare decisions, the medical team caring for you will appoint a temporary decision-maker on your behalf as required by the Illinois Healthcare Surrogate Act. Your healthcare surrogate, typically a family member or close friend, will make healthcare decisions for you until you regain capacity to do so on your own.

Established Memorial Physician Services patients have the opportunity to use our Advance Care Planning services to help with the POA-HC document. To learn more, or to set up your appointment please call Gina Groff, LCSW, at 217-757-7253.

To learn more about Advance Care Planning, register for our free virtual event, Advanced Care Planning 101, on June 26, 2020.

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