Do I Need a Medical Emergency Plan?

A medical emergency plan includes instructions for your care in the event you are incapacitated. 

What are the chances you’ll need a medical emergency plan?

By age 65, your chances of becoming incapacitated are over 50%. If you live to over 80 years old, the risk is almost 75%. Although age is a factor, even those under retirement age have a 20% chance of becoming incapacitated.

Have a Personal Health Record (PHR) Ready

Ask yourself, what is your risk if a doctor tries to treat you without your medical records? Are you allergic to any drugs they might give you? What about drug interactions with what you take daily? Can they take an X-Ray or do an MRI without risking your life?

A personal health record (PHR) is health data and related information maintained by the patient. A PHR provides a complete and accurate summary of your medical history when you and the medical community cannot.

Why risk your life when you can easily prepare this information and have it available in the event of an emergency?

Set up a Medical Directive

Another crucial part of your medical emergency plan will be to set up a medical directive. A medical directive is a document that states how you want to be treated by doctors and your family during a medical emergency.

It’s otherwise known as a living will because you’re still alive but in some way incapacitated to the point that you’re unable to make decisions on your own. If you’re unable to communicate your wishes regarding healthcare, your medical directive will lay out a detailed set of instructions.

Could a Medical Emergency Happen to You?

A typical example of when a medical directive is needed is after a medical emergency that leaves you on life support. Your life is hanging in the balance, and it is your personal decision to be taken off life support, then your medical directive would legally establish this.

While a medical emergency of this nature is not something that you want to consider, they’re a fact of life that too often sees family members left caught in the middle of both moral and legal battles. At least by setting up a medical directive, you take all legal pressure away from your closest loved ones during an unbearably hard time.

Grant a Power of Attorney

The second essential part of a medical emergency plan is to grant a power of attorney. Power of attorney is a document that legally specifies who has the power to act on your behalf in a situation where you’re unable to make decisions yourself.

A popular choice is to grant a power of attorney to a family member with who you’ve had a frank discussion and trust to carry out your wishes as you see fit. 

The document gives the holder permission to perform any action specified. Whether these powers are wide-reaching or very limited is entirely up to you.

Why Grant a Power of Attorney?

By and large, your agent will most likely end up with specific and limited powers. Depending on how your attorney has prepared the document, they will be limited to making specific healthcare and end-of-life decisions.

If you don’t grant a power of attorney and become unable to make crucial decisions, your loved ones can end up in court to take control of your estate. It may sound far-fetched that things could get that far, but there have been countless examples of things unnecessarily escalating.

When it comes to granting a power of attorney, we’d recommend that any associated risks far outweigh the benefits of potentially handing over control to a loved one during a medical emergency.

Your Medical Directive and Power of Attorney Work Together

It would be best to have both of the above documents prepared by an attorney. Even if you’ve already named a family member as your acting agent with a power of attorney, having a medical directive is imperative in certain situations.

Essentially, a medical directive is a formal blueprint of instructions for your designated agent to follow during a medical emergency.

Examples of Different Power of Attorney Instructions

  1. One example of a limited power of attorney could be as follows: “You’re able to take money out of my bank account to pay the mortgage.”
  1. A more broad power of attorney, on the other hand, could be: “You’re able to access my bank account as you see fit in protecting my interests.” 

Make Your Wishes Known

While it may be glaringly obvious as you’re now reading this section of our medical emergency guide, the taboo nature of the topic means it’s too rarely ever discussed.

By having a stressful conversation that makes your wishes known to close family, you can alleviate their stress when it matters amid a tragedy. After all, they won’t be able to carry out your wishes if they don’t know what they are.

Make part of your conversation with loved ones about where to find copies of all your legal, medical directive, power of attorney, and will documents. Preferably together in the one place to make it as easy and straightforward for them to access if you’ll no longer be in a position to guide them.

Such a simple discussion can alleviate a potentially huge weight of stress off the shoulders of your loved ones. It will also ensure that your entire estate passes to the people you care about should your medical emergency take a turn for the worse.

Further Advice on Medical Emergency Planning

To reiterate, yes, you must have a medical emergency plan in place. When you’re ready to put together the documents we’ve outlined in this guide, work with an attorney specializing in wills and estate planning. 

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