My father has nine lives. He’s cheated death - and astounded doctors who gave him weeks to live - numerous times. In the process, he’s been in the hospital too many times to count and faced several life-or-death situations. Many times, he was too weak to grasp all the nuances of the medical mumbo jumbo. “Talk to my daughters,” he’d tell the doctors wearily.

Talk is cheap, as they say. What we needed was a health care proxy, a legal document that allowed us to make his health care decisions if he couldn’t. We scrambled to get one, but wish we had taken care of this essential task sooner. If you - or your loved ones - don’t have one, now is the time to take action. Serious illness, a debilitating accident or a stroke can happen unexpectedly - and quickly. And those who are unable to speak up about those all-important medical decisions (everything from consent for surgery to life support), need someone they trust to make their wishes known.

The American Bar Association’s easy to understand, step-by-step free guide will walk you through everything you need to know about giving someone power of attorney for your health care. Broken down into a three-step process, the seven-page primer includes dos and don‘ts (choose at least one back-up agent in case the first person is not available, do not appoint your health care providers), tips (pick someone who can handle conflicting opinions from family members, friends, and medical personnel.) and links to other guides (including one that helps families start meaningful conversations about this all-important topic).

The Bar’s Commission on Law and Aging, which prepared the document, also included the necessary legal form - with explicit instructions on how to use it. To view the guide, click here.

Tags:Aging Aging Parents Caregiving POA

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Linda Haase

Linda Haase, Seniority Matters' guest blogger, is a veteran journalist and a member of the indomitable Sandwich Generation. She is currently a freelance writer for the Palm Beach Post, AARP Bulletin, Boca Raton Observer and other publications.  When she's not writing,she likes to enjoy quiet time at home, dreaming of the day she can sleep past 5 a.m.

Linda may be contacted via email at

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