Life is full of unexpected events, some of them wonderful, but some of them less than ideal.  Good planning can help cushion the blow of unexpected situations.  Mental health planning gives you the opportunity to appoint someone to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  This advanced planning can ensure that the right person is in place to act on your behalf and bring peace and comfort to your loved ones during a difficult time.

What Is a Mental Health Power of Attorney?

A mental health power of attorney allows you to designate someone else to make mental healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are declared incapable of making those decisions for yourself.  A mental health power of attorney is an important, but often overlooked, planning tool.

An Overview of the State of Arizona’s Durable Mental Health Power of Attorney Laws

If you have not already completed the process to legally appoint an agent to manage your mental healthcare decisions, now is the time to start.  There are several important steps to this process.  You will first need to decide on the best person for the job.  It is simply a fact of life that different people have different strengths; some are good with money, others are more suited to handle legal difficulties and still others may be better equipped to manage emotionally charged situations.  It is important that you select an agent who will carry out your wishes and is willing to take on the responsibility of being your mental health care decision maker if the need ever arises.  You can name an agent to make decisions for you and an alternate agent in the event your first choice is unavailable when needed.

Second, there is a test that must be met before your mental health care decision maker is allowed to make decisions for you.  You have to be unable to make decisions for yourself.  Two psychiatrists, or one psychiatrist and one psychologist, need to make this determination.

You can put in the power of attorney to what degree you empower your designated agent.  You can opt to give your agent full decision making capabilities or you can limit his or her power.  Selections include releasing information and decision making about your medical records, medications, structured treatment settings or other criteria that you specify.

A mental health power of attorney also includes a HIPAA waiver and witness and notary signatures.  Your named agent will need access to your medical information in order to make informed decisions on your behalf.  Additionally, part of the legal process dictates that you will need to have a witness and notary attest to your signing of this document.

A mental health power of attorney will be remain in place unless you revoke it.  You are able to revoke who your designated agent is at any time, provided you are mentally capable of doing so.

You should also communicate your decision to your friends and family if you are able.  This dialogue can help prevent conflicts among loved ones down the road if the mental health power of attorney is ever needed.

How is Power of Attorney for Mental Health Different Than Other Powers of Attorney?

Mental health power of attorney deals specifically with decision making regarding a person’s mental well-being.  There are many other types of powers of attorney that address different, but equally important, issues.

Financial power of attorney is another very common type of power of attorney.  This appointment gives your chosen agent the ability to manage your money and finances in the event you are unable to do so.  You can give your financial agent as much or little decision making power as you choose.

While you technically can designate the same person to handle all of your power of attorney needs, this may not be the best idea.  You may have a family member or trusted friend who is much better with money making decisions and another close person that would be better able to handle mental health care items.  By creating two separate powers of attorney, you are able to appoint two different individuals and keep information limited to each.  For instance, your financial power of attorney does not need your medical information and your mental healthcare power of attorney does not need to know the state of your finances.  Separate powers of attorney allow you to give access to the information that is pertinent to each specified individual.

If you do not already have your designated agents appointed with the proper paperwork, please contact the Law Offices of Paula Hannah, PLC. I will help you put together your powers of attorney.