Figuring out what to do when a loved one's health or cognitive function starts to decline can be extremely complicated. In addition to dealing with the potentially confusing options of possible medical solutions, there is often the need for a legal solution, as well. This is made all the more complicated by the roller coaster of emotions that can be brought on by watching someone you love suffer through this trying time.
The first step in dealing with the potential issues that can arise is to be prepared. Having a durable power of attorney (POA), preferably a general POA but, at minimum, a durable medical POA, may help avoid some of the confusion and will make it clear who is to make these decisions. There is very little that complicates this matter more than having family members fighting about who should be making the decisions and what the next step in the treatment process should be. A properly prepared POA can prevent the expensive and potentially contentious process of filing for an interdiction. A general POA will not only allow for your medical needs to be attended to, but will also provide for someone to handle financial affairs during this difficult time. At minimum, there should be someone who can access current financial records so that this information can be provided to the healthcare provider, Medicaid and/or Medicare office, and any long term care facility where additional treatment may be needed. If there is any potential that Medicaid will be used as a payment source, this person should also be able to direct any Social Security payments and/or other income streams to the facility as Medicaid will not provide any assistance until these personal income sources are used.
If there has been no prior direction, an interdiction will likely be the only way for someone to be allowed to step into the roles of medical and financial decision maker. While the law in Louisiana provides for a hierarchy of persons who can act as the medical decision maker, the statutes give little consideration as to who the potential interdict would have wanted to fill that role or even to who would be best suited to act in this capacity. Even if everyone knows that Aunt Sally is a nurse, was Mom's best friend, and Mom would have wanted her to be responsible for any medical care, Aunt Sally will be several rungs down the ladder in the eyes of the law. In addition, the law is of limited help in cases where there are multiple decision makers (several adult children, multiple siblings, etc.) who cannot agree on a solution. Decisions in these cases are typically made by a majority of the class, but what happens when there is an even split? Or when there are multiple factions who are all pulling in different directions? What if some of the family members are unreachable? Things get even more complicated if the decisions involve end-of-life care, as these decisions must be unanimous.
Judicial Commitment (JC) is often confused as being interchangeable with interdiction, but this is an entirely different proceeding. A JC is filed with the court when an involuntary period of inpatient treatment is needed to protect the patient from himself or to protect society from a patient who, usually due to a severe mental illness, is potentially dangerous. Although not very common, a JC is sometimes used in conjunction with an interdiction to treat someone who, due to his or her mental illness, is no longer able to make rational decisions about needed medical and/or psychiatric care. Although the interdiction would allow the curator, the person appointed to make decisions, to consent to inpatient treatment, this consent would still not allow for the interdict to be held against his or her will when this would require physical restraints or involuntarily medicating the patient for an extended period of time.
The decision as to how to best help a loved one in this time of need can be confusing, expensive, and taxing on everyone involved. If you are in need of someone to help you through this process, the attorneys at Blue Law Firm are ready to be your guide. We are highly experienced in drafting Powers of Attorney, and we have handled dozens of interdictions and judicial commitments. So if you are facing a tough decision involving a loved one who is struggling with a physical or mental illness, give us a call today to see how we can help.