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Power of Attorney for Caregivers

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A durable power of attorney (or other advance directive) gives an individual the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to do so (called a “principal”). Depending on the state, the person given this authority is sometimes known as an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent,” and there are numerous decisions he or she can be given the power to make. This includes, but is not limited to, financial or medical decisions that may include giving, withholding or terminating medical treatments or services.

Who can get durable power of attorney?

A durable power of attorney (or other advance directive) is commonly granted to a spouse, adult child, or trusted friend of the principal. Generally speaking, the attorney-in-fact’s (or agent’s) decisions for matters covered in this document are considered to be the actions or choices of the principal, so the attorney-in-fact or agent has a significant responsibility to carry out the principal’s wishes. The court system usually does not need to approve these decisions. It may be a good idea for a caregiver to discuss health-care wishes and medical and financial issues with the person he or she is caring for and determine whether there is a need for advance directives such as a power of attorney. Please note that specific rules about durable power of attorney and other types of advance directives may vary from one state to another.

An agent may work with the principal to manage the principal’s health care and Medicare benefits effectively. You may want to consult with legal counsel or other personal advisors if durable power of attorney is something you are considering. It may also be important to ask the person you are caring for where to find his or her financial and legal documents, including for example a living will, health care proxy and/or power of attorney.

Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) can help you take the first steps to get started in obtaining power of attorney. SHIP is a service that provides free Medicare counseling to beneficiaries, their families, and their caregivers. SHIP educates people so they can make informed decisions around their health care. It’s an independent program that receives federal funding and is not affiliated with any insurance companies. It’s also worth noting that some states have a different name for their program.

For a list of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, visit’s SHIP page and find the contact information for your state.

Please note: This article is not intended to give legal or medical advice.

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