A Power of Attorney or a Healthcare Directive? Do I Need Either of Them?
Both an “Enduring Power of Attorney”, and a “Healthcare Directive” are tools designed to help you should the time comes when you can’t make decisions for yourself. However, they are useful for completely different reasons. You will likely decide that you need them both.
Enduring Power of Attorney
By appointing an “Enduring Power of Attorney”, you are choosing someone (or a few people) to manage your financial affairs for you if you are unable to make these decisions. Your “attorney” can pay your bills, manage your investments, ensure your insurance is in order, and your property is kept safe. They can also take care of your income taxes and apply for your benefits on your behalf. If you need an alternate housing arrangement, they can make the necessary financial arrangements. The focus is strictly on your financial assets.
A Healthcare Directive form (also called a “Living Will”), allows you to appoint a “Healthcare Proxy”; this is a person (or a few people) who will make your healthcare decisions for you, if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. Based on conversations you’ve had in advance, and on directions you’ve documented on the form, your proxy will make decisions about what kinds of treatment and how much treatment you want. Your proxy may work with the healthcare team to make decisions about specific treatments, surgeries, end-of-life care, and assisted living arrangements.
Not Just for the Elderly
Considering that 11% of seniors have Alzheimer’s dementia, having both documents is a wise move. But they aren’t just for seniors; any kind of traumatic accident or illness can impede your decision making temporarily or permanently (such as an unexpected stroke, or a head injury in a traffic accident, a fall, or an act of violence). By preparing in advance, you will ensure that your health and financial decisions will be made by someone you trust, and according to your wishes.
So how do you go about arranging these documents?
The Healthcare Directive is very easy! You can download the form here: https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/documents/hcd.pdf (English)
As for the Enduring Power of Attorney, there is no required or standard form. Forms are available at stationery stores or on-line, or a lawyer can make one for you. Experts recommend seeing a lawyer prior to preparing or signing a power of attorney to obtain advice about the form it should take, what it should include, and who you should appoint to act on your behalf.
If you are ready to move forward with one or both documents, but you want to do a little more reading, here are some resources for you:
- Manitoba Government – Healthcare Directive:
- Manitoba Government – Power of Attorney:
- Canadian Government – Power of Attorney:
- Advance Care Planning Canada