DURABLE MENTAL HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Helping to Meet Your Needs in a Time of Crisis
What is a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney?
This is something you need - whether you realize it or not.
In short, a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney is a document you sign. It names someone (referred to as your "Agent") who will be responsible for making decisions about psychiatric hospitalizations for you. Your Agent would work with mental health professionals to determine if such a hospitalization is necessary.
These documents are a type of directive which can only be signed by you if you are of sound mind and body and legally able to consent to such a document. As long as you remain in this state, you can amend or revoke the document at any time.
You could find yourself in a situation where your loved ones are fighting a hospital or court order to make appropriate mental health decisions on your behalf.
Let's use the following example and assume that you have a Mental Health Power of Attorney document signed: Suppose you suffer a psychotic episode. By law, you can be hospitalized, against your will, for 72 hours. During that time, medical professionals will evaluate you to determine if you are a danger to yourself or others. Once those 72 hours expire, and the mental professionals believe you still need to be hospitalized, your agent will make the decision for you. If they agree with the mental health professionals, you will remain in the hospital. If not, you may be released.
You can see the importance here: Appointing a trusted person as your Agent is vital, as they will make important mental health decisions on your behalf without the need for court involvement. Without this Power of Attorney, your loved ones need to get emergency guardianship through the courts. This can be very, very stressful and completely avoidable.
There are many reasons why this type of Power of Attorney document is necessary. This type of specialized Power of Attorney document is vital to ensure that individuals can have appropriate mental health care decisions made on their behalf. Remember, in Arizona, other Power of Attorney documents do not cover mental health care.
While I recommend that all individuals get this document, they are particularly necessary if:
- You have a history of mental illness in your family or your own medical history.
- You have - or at high risk to have - psychosis associated with other illnesses, such as Alzheimer's or dementia.
- You take - or may in the future take - medication which puts you at a high risk of negatively impacting your mood or ability to function.
Many mental health advocacy groups, such as Mental Health America, highly recommend that at-risk individuals pursue these Powers of Attorney.
With such a document, you can name one person, or multiple people, as your Agent. By naming multiple people, you can ensure that one person doesn't have a monopoly on your mental health care.
Why Susan L. Sandys?
I definitely understand that planning for death and incapacity is uncomfortable. Therefore, I try my best to keep the experience of putting together estate planning documents as comfortable as possible.
My entire professional life has been focused on helping families protect themselves. The best way I can do this is to help you through the process, in a relaxed, compassionate and "simple English only" manner.