Senior Healthcare Advance Directives

Assisting a parent or a loved one in making important end-of-life decisions will bring great comfort both to you and the rest of the family. Advance directives are necessary when a loved one isn’t able to make health care decisions due to incapacitation, short term or long term memory loss. This document authorizes someone to speak on another person’s behalf. Without advance directives or a living will, loved ones who cannot communicate may be left in the hands of doctors or squabbling family members who can decide something contrary to what the patient would want.

Each patient has to give his consent either yes or no before undergoing any medical procedure. An advance directive can set out your loved one’s wishes regarding specific care that he may or may not want. It can appoint someone such as a close family member to make decisions or supervise care for the patient when he is unable to make decisions. An advance directive cannot override a person’s control over the level of his care if he is still able to speak for himself.

What Can an Advance Directive Accomplish?

An advance directive comes in many varieties and has different names depending on your state. Other names for these documents are living will, advance health care directive, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and patient advocate designation. These documents are meant to protect a patient in two main ways when and if he can’t communicate:

The patient can select a caregiver to act on his behalf and make healthcare decisions when he is unable to do so. This designated caregiver has the power to act according to the document and to ensure that the wishes of the patient are carried out, or to make other health care decisions that weren’t specified in the advance directive.

The patient can choose some specific healthcare options. Usually, they include artificially administered water and food, artificial life-prolonging care, and care that he may or may not want. However, in most states, the caregiver can specify the type of care if the patient is close to death or is permanently comatose. This helps family members and medical providers who follow the wishes of the patient.

Types of Advance Directives

A DNR (do not resuscitate) order

This document states the wishes of a loved one that he doesn’t want CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to be undertaken to attempt bringing him back to life after he has stopped breathing and his heart stops beating.

A Living Will

This document is very important, especially if you are a senior. A living will includes the type of medical care you will want and when. It also specifies whether under any circumstances you would want to be kept on life support.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health

This document permits another person chosen by a patient to make health decisions on their behalf if the patient is unable to because of severe impairment or loss of consciousness.

Some historians call it the last gasp of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era New Deal program. Indeed, President Lyndon B. Johnson viewed his presidency as an extension of Roosevelt’s far ranging vision of an America with a robust safety net to protect people through their trials and tribulations.

By the mid-1960s, two groups living on opposite sides of the demographic spectrum, children and the elderly shared a common characteristic of living in abject poverty. Johnson’s goal with the 1965 Medicaid Act was to stretch that social safety net to protect those two sections of the population. Under the program, at risk citizens who had exhausted all of their assets were offered assistance to help defray health and long-term care expenses.

A Partnership for Health

The Medicaid program is a partnership between the federal government and the states. As such, there is a wide disparity in available benefits and recipients should note their individual state’s guidelines for entry and acceptance into the program. In general, however, the federal government extends matching grants to the states with the goal of having the individual states provide medical resources to residents meeting certain eligibility requirements.

When a resident’s income and assets fail to keep up with the costs and expenses of needed medical services, the states have a resource to extend those in need. As a result, the primary source for medical insurance for the nation’s poorest sectors has become the Medicaid program.

The Basics of Eligibility

To obtain benefits under the Medicaid program, acceptance and eligibility is based on specific categories. In other words, the enrollee must be a member of a specific category, as defined by legal statute, and includes the following:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Low-Income Seniors
  • Low-Income Children
  • Parents of Medicaid eligible children.

Those with documented disabilities, which would otherwise prevent them from gainful employment, are covered under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These recipients are offered Medicaid as a way of providing ready access to health insurance coverage.

Additionally, included under the program, Medicaid has a dental component that is mandatory for recipients under the age of 21, but voluntary for those over the age of 21. Minimum available services include:

  • Periodic screenings
  • Pain relief
  • Teeth restoration
  • Cleanings

Building Healthy Communities

A healthy nation demands healthy citizens, and that was an understanding that both F.D.R. and L.B.J. shared in common. Thanks to their understanding and efforts, seniors in the United States who have reached the end of their financial tether have a social safety net that can help them obtain the medical care they so urgently need. If you have a senior in your life in need of the financial assistance to obtain basic medical care, let them know that there is a social safety net waiting for them at the local welfare office.