Many health care powers of attorney do not include the authority to make mental health decisions. If your power of attorney was written before 2009 or written in another state, you likely do not provide your agent with mental health care authority.
You’re probably thinking, that’s o.k., I don’t have any mental healthcare concerns. Or, you may think, I have a general healthcare power of attorney. As with medical and financial powers of attorney, this document is critical for all Arizonians, you don’t need to have a history of mental illness to be at risk.
Common Scenario #1:
You go to your doctor and he/she decides to make a change with your medication. Upon taking the new dosage, your mood or behaviors are dramatically affected. You are just “not yourself”. You have an allergic reaction to the medication that manifests itself into behaviors akin to mental illness and you are refusing help or medical attention.
Common Scenario #2:
Your loved one suffers with dementia. (Behavioral issues commonly accompany dementia, especially Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body.)
In Arizona, a regular healthcare power of attorney does not grant your agent the authority to have you hospitalized or treated as an inpatient for mental health concerns. Without the Mental Health Power of Attorney, if you exhibit signs that you could be a danger to yourself or others and needed inpatient hospitalization (yet refuse such help), the only option is to pursue an emergency guardianship which can be an expensive (to you) and time consuming (for the whole family) court proceeding. To avoid the consequences of failing to have this unique medical directive, we recommend to all our clients they have a mental health power of attorney in place, as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
To learn more or to have your Power of Attorney reviewed, contact the attorneys at Bivens & Associates, PLLC.
-Rachel S. Zaslow, Esq.