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Page 52 Healthy Cells Magazine Peoria June 2014

ometimes the best way to introduce a topic is through an
analogy. Most adults have experienced an event in their life
that required planning. For example, imagine a wedding.
Your best friend is getting married and has asked you to meet
and discuss her plans for that special day. Your role is to carry
out her plans. When the time comes and the wedding occurs,
although you have arranged everything, the event will unfold to be
her dreams come true.
Most adults have experienced unplanned events. Illness or
accidents occur. The diagnosis and treatment may be as simple
as a trip to the emergency department (ED) for some stitches or
perhaps an antibiotic for an infection. However, the illness or acci-
dent may be life-threatening, requiring very intense treatment or,
in fact, the patient may not survive. Members of the health care
team must rely on family to know the patient well if he or she is no
longer able to make their own health care decisions. The staff will
ask, Is there a health care power of attorney?
What is a health care power of attorney? Do all adults need
to have one? Does this document have to be prepared by an
attorney? If there is no one named, who makes the decisions?
These are only a few of the questions that may come to mind and
perhaps we can provide answers.
A search of the Internet will provide the basic document, which is
called health care power of attorney (HCPOA) or power of attorney
for health care. The state of Illinois has created a document titled
Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care. It
is legal in all 50 states. The document may be printed and then com-
pleted by the person wishing to appoint a HCPOA. Any individual
over the age of 18 would benefit by completing this document since
none of us knows when someone may need to speak for us.
Cutting Through the Jargon
The Whys and Hows of Health Care Power of Attorney
By Towana Ernst, APN, FNP-BC, Palliative Care Consulting Service, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
June 2014 Peoria Healthy Cells Magazine Page 53
Most of the HCPOAs have four important sections. First, the
name of the person who is filling out the form and whose health
care decisions are noted is required. Next, the name of the agent
they are appointing to make health care decisions for them if they
are determined unable to make decisions. There are standard
components in the documents such as but not limited to: do you
wish to have your organs donated; are there any procedures or
machines that you are certain you do not want to have started
in your care (example: ventilator, feeding tube, dialysis); if at any
time your agent is not available or is unwilling to make decisions, is
there a successor (or two) that you would like to take over? There
is also a section where you, the owner, are able to provide a more
focused direction to your agent. Typically, there are three para-
graphs and you are asked to initial one of them. Those paragraphs
name specific guidelines you would like your agent to follow when
making decisions on your behalf. The owner of the HCPOA must
sign it and date it. Your signature is witnessed by someone who is
not named in the document and is not directly responsible for your
health care.
While this document, the HCPOA, is a signed agreement
between you, as the focus of the document and your agent/suc-
cessor, it must be accompanied by a discussion. This is a good
time to have a talk centered on the decisions you would want
made for you if there comes a time when you are no longer able to
direct the health care team. Talk with your agent about the activi-
ties that you enjoy in life, what brings you happiness, the type of
spiritual care you believe would comfort you, and your plans for
your body after death (i.e., funeral, burial, cremation, organ dona-
tion). This discussion document should be reviewed together with
your agent.
The individual that accepts the appointment of agent may need
to be at the bedside when you are unable to speak. They will face
many questions from the health care team and those questions
may include discussions about medications, treatments, proce-
dures, even life-sustaining treatment or end-of-life conversations.
In answer, the agents often use phrases like, my dad said he
never wanted or my sister did not want As members of
the health care team, we see the confidence that HCPOAs exhibit
when they are able to share the decisions as they were expressed
to them by the patient.
Preparing your plan in advance is not meant to be stressful. It is
an opportunity for you to make your decisions when your thought
process is clear and you are able to identify your values.
For more information, visit or
call 309-624-6004.
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Contact Vicki Dick, RN, BSN at
or call for a personal consultation at your convenience
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This is a good time to have a talk
centered on the decisions you would
want made for you if there comes a
time when you are no longer able to
direct the health care team.