The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all how quickly normal life can change. This year we have seen people of all ages, who were otherwise leading healthy lives, become severely unwell. In more serious cases, this has resulted in people being hospitalised, intubated and unable to make decisions themselves about their healthcare and treatment. The experience of the pandemic has led to growing awareness in the community of the important need to plan ahead for a time when you may be unable to make your own healthcare decisions.
An Enduring Guardianship allows you to appoint someone to make health and lifestyle decisions for you when you lose the capacity to make those decisions yourself. You might lose capacity to make those decisions for a short period of time, such as if you are unconscious for a few days, or on a long-term basis, if you have a progressive disease like dementia.
Making an Enduring Guardianship before you lose capacity is a way of ensuring that the person who you trust to make decisions for you is able to step into that role with ease. You can choose to appoint one person to be your guardian or a number of people to act together, as well as substitutes who act only when the first nominated guardian(s) are unable to do so.
The common decision-making areas or functions already included in the form of appointment are:
- to decide where you live;
- to decide what health care you receive;
- to decide what personal services you should have to support and assist you; and
- to give or withhold consent to medical and dental treatment on your behalf.
It is also possible to give directions about how to exercise the particular decision-making functions you have given your enduring guardian. For example, in your directions you may state “where possible I would like to continue to receive medical services from my current general practitioner, Dr White”.
Undertaking the process of making an Enduring Guardianship will provide you with an opportunity to consider what kinds of decisions you would like to see made for yourself, and it can also provide an opportunity for you to discuss important decisions with your nominated guardian, so that they can act in accordance with your wishes when they are required to do so.
If you would like some more information about Enduring Guardianships, or if you would like to make an appointment to prepare an Enduring Guardianship, please telephone our office on (02) 4943 3988 to speak to one of our estate planning lawyers. We have years of experience helping people with their estate planning needs throughout the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter region.