Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 13, 2019

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When most of us think of long term care, we think of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult day care. (See our article on Long Term Care: What Are Your Options?) While those are certainly options for long term care, we often gloss over other important aspects of it – such as long term care planning. Documents such as powers of attorney, advanced health care directives and living wills often go hand in hand with long term care preparedness, but few truly understand their importance.

Living will. A living will provides an affirmation that you do not want to be kept alive by artificial means. It states your wishes, but unlike a power of attorney (see below), it does not allow another person to speak for you. Generally, it’s a very simple document, but without it, you run the risk of being kept alive artificially – even if family members and friends tell doctors that you wouldn’t want to be.

The recent case of Terry Schiavo brought national attention to the matter and is a good example. After being in an accident, Terry lived in a vegetative state for many years. Her husband knew that Terry didn’t want to be kept alive artificially, but her parents didn’t agree. She was kept alive through feeding tubes while her husband and parents battled it out in the courts. Doctors eventually removed her feeding tubes and she passed away, but it was a wake up call for many that a living will is an important document to have.

Power of attorney. A power of attorney is a document that allows another person to act on your behalf legally. It can be created for a single event or for many events. Examples include buying real estate, filing tax returns and handling financial matters. The more generic form is called a durable power of attorney. However, you can also have a health care power of attorney created which allows you to appoint another person to make important medical decisions for you.

Advanced health care directive. An advanced health care directive (AHCD) is similar in nature. It allows you to instruct others about your wishes. However, it only becomes effective under certain circumstances that are listed in the document. While the documents are fairly straight forward, experts recommend that you speak with your doctors, friends and family members about what to include and what to exclude.

Many of us think about purchasing long term care insurance so that we won’t become a burden on our family and friends. However, we often overlook some of the other ways that we can prepare ourselves to deal long term care issues, such as what would happen if we could not make decisions for ourselves. Any qualified attorney can prepare these documents for you.