Here's a guest blog we wrote for Lotus Financial Partners.
Gunnison, CO -- My friend Cindy is a hospice nurse but she’d never been in a canoe. One summer, she signed us up for a trip down the Gunnison River. It was late summer and we took off after work with extra ziplocks and sunscreen. The trip website read “no experience necessary”.
Early the next morning, the guides helped us load our belongings for the next four days into a 17-foot canoe. We donned life jackets and one of the guides asked Cindy and I who had experience paddling. I had some but Cindy had none so they put her in the front of the boat – for power. Cindy weighs about 90 pounds (and not to foreshadow) dripping wet. I was assigned to the back as steerage. Cindy told me, “You got this” as we got in the boat. I noticed our bow was already in whitewater.
The guides instructed us to wait for everyone in the first eddy downstream. Cindy turned around with her paddle over her head and yelled, “I trust you! I trust you with my life!” The guides shoved us out into the river.
I dug into the waves and yelled for Cindy to paddle. Within 30 feet of shore, our canoe turned backward and we took the rapids butt-first. Cindy kept yelling, “I trust you with my life!” For the rest of the trip, we took most of the rapids backwards.
Not long afterward, I attended a workshop to complete my advanced directive, power of attorney (POA) forms and will. I asked Cindy if she’d be my #1 medical POA agent, knowing that, as a hospice nurse, she’d make decisions following my preferences. Plus, I trust her with my life.
My whole goal for completing this paperwork was to limit surprises for my family. As it turns out, happy and unhappy surprises make a bigger impact on us than known events. Putting things in place to limit the unhappy surprises can minimize the long-term impact of those situations.
On that note, some people have developed another strategy. They recognize that their agents can make hard decisions but may want back-up. In a new twist, they are designating a professional who can offer guidance to their POA agents should the need arise. A Professional Personal Advocate. These advocates are invaluable because they know resources and benefits, and are trained to help agents make their best decisions. A Professional Personal Advocate (PPA) can support your agent by offering education, guidance and options. They may be a private geriatric social worker, aging services consultant, or a care manager. Pick someone with connections, experience and the curiosity to keep learning. A PPA can know a lot about things like Medicare or end-of-life issues but they should be a professional whom you trust. Also, they are free to designate – you only pay them once you use them.
Choosing a Professional Personal Advocate is setting yourself up for success as well as the person who has to make decisions for you.
POA forms are just one way to protect yourself from a bad situation should you be unable to explain your wishes. You can fill out some of the POA forms (the medical ones) on your own (Click here for Colorado's form). Others (the financial ones) should be completed by an elder law attorney if there are resources and assets. If you need a recommendation for an elder law attorney, maybe it’s time to call a professional in the field of aging for a referral. And while you’re at it, consider asking them to be your Professional Personal Advocate.
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Western Care Partners is proud to serve as designated professional personal advocates for those wanting to put an added layer of support in place for their loved ones. We provide a simple form for individuals and families to use in appointing someone to this role -- please contact us for more information: 720-675-9902 or www.westerncarepartners.com.
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