I've probably drafted over 5,000 estate planning documents in my 32 years as a lawyer. At least half of those have been advance directives of some ilk: financial powers of attorney (POAs), medical POAs, directives to physicians, etc. Not until my father became ill, however, did I have to make use of one myself. We're in the middle of that season right now, and I have discovered a few things about the practice of implementing advance directives that I didn't know:
1. A lot of people who should ask to see a medical power of attorney just don't ask. I've discussed my dad's care and condition with a number of nurses and other staff who just accepted that I was who I said I was and that I was the primary agent named on the MPOA (I'm not, and didn't tell them that I was). Does that mean you shouldn't get one? NO! It simply means that there's a lack of training in the institutions we've been dealing with, which (as a former hospital attorney myself) shocked me a bit.
2. A lot of people who have no need to see an advance directive ask if you have one. Why? I guess because it's on their checklist, and it's on the checklist partly because it's easier on the facility if you have one. Often, if you don't have one, they'll urge you to fill one out. Remember, you don't EVER have to complete a living will if you don't want to.
3. As long as you know the patient's name and date of birth, you can get a fair amount of information from the physician's staff over the phone. One office even declined when I asked if they wanted me to scan the HIPAA release and send it to them! I guess I have a telephone voice that inspires confidence...
As happened when I had to serve as executor of my brother-in-law's estate a couple of years ago, I find that walking in the shoes of the people I serve, like executors and healthcare agents, gives me a better view of the challenges and surprises they face, and that, hopefully, helps me be a better advisor, counselor and representative. That's what I'm choosing to take away from this experience, anyway. I'll address more of these issues as our personal journey continues. In the meantime, if you have any spare prayers, please send them my father's way. I know where he's going, I'm just not wild about the process of him getting there.