AMES, Iowa – What happens when a loved one is unable to make his or her own medical decisions, but has not designated power of attorney for health care? Without power of attorney, no one can legally speak for that person and carry out his or her wishes. Too often families learn this lesson the hard way, says Brenda Schmitt, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“In one family, the mother had a major medical emergency that left her unable to communicate her wishes. Early on in her health emergency, there were multiple family members in her room at all times, with others being consulted by phone,” Schmitt said.
“Basically, they were making decisions by a majority vote while under stress and in an emotional state. Can you imagine being the physician in this example, having to listen and weigh the concerns of all family members?” Schmitt asked.
Schmitt’s personal experience was different.
“My brother and I did not struggle while communicating with caregivers and making decisions for our dad. We knew what dad’s wishes were and the two of us shared his values and faith. As his power of attorney for health care, I could say ‘no’ when a request was made that was clearly not in his wishes. I knew legally and in good conscience I could make that decision,” Schmitt said.
ISU Extension and Outreach offers “The Finances of Caregiving” to help families with power of attorney and other issues related to providing care for a loved one. Schmitt and other human sciences specialists who specialize in family finance teach this series of five two-hour workshops.
“‘The Finances of Caregiving’ will help you examine your current situation, understand your options and make the choices that are best for you and your loved one,” Schmitt said.
The workshops cover the importance of planning ahead; wills, living wills and durable power of attorney for health care and financial matters; planning financially for caregiving; paying for care; and effective communication.
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