Essential Legal Documents for Seniors to Have

No one likes lugging around piles of paperwork, especially when each page is written in legalese and named a random combination of three to four capital letters. However, there are a few legal documents that are important for every senior to have filled out (younger adults, too). No matter how uncomfortable the topic may be, it is worth the effort to take the time to fill these out, alone or with legal guidance. Many of these documents are required before moving into a facility for Assisted Living. Here is a list of some of the ones we have found to be most important, as well as what they are used for.

Physician’s Report (602A)- REQUIRED

A senior man seeks legal advice with his important documents

Prior to admission into a Care Home, the State of California requires this form to be completed by the Primary Care Physician, or attending Physician if in a medical facility, and provided to the Care Home of your choosing. It is an assessment and disclosure of a person’s current health and conditions. It may also include TB and COVID test results.

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Durable Power of Attorney (DPA)

In the State of California, a Power of Attorney allows an individual to make financial decisions in place of someone else. The Power of Attorney grants these powers and decision making to a trusted friend or relative, called an “Agent”. The Agent can only make decisions as specified by the “Principle”. The Agent has a Fiduciary responsibility to act in the Principle’s best interests. Durable Power of Attorney, vs. a standard Power of Attorney means that the powers continue should the Principle become incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions.

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Advanced Health Care Directive (AD)

In the State of California, an Advanced Health Care Directive allows a person to specify the types of care they do or do not want to receive. The person can also name their Power of Attorney for Health Care in this document. It allows the Power of Attorney for Health Care to make medical decisions now or in the future should the person become incapacitated. This form requires acknowledgment before a Notary Public or two qualified witness signatures to be recognized as a legal document.

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Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

A POLST form tells all health care providers during a medical emergency what you want. It offers more specific instructions than simply stating “Do Not Resuscitate.” A person can specify whether they want to be transported to the emergency room, what types of medical treatments they wish to have performed, and much more. It is a portable medical order, meaning that the document is valid outside of your primary care clinic.

POLST forms are not for everyone. According to POLST’s official instructions, they are meant for people with advanced illness “whose medical conditions mean they are likely to have a medical emergency: and they likely know what that emergency will be.”

Ask your physician for one of these forms if you think it’s right for you.

Signed Medication List

Many older adults take several medications. It can be hard for anyone to keep the Latin names straight in their minds, but elderly ones also often struggle with memory decline or even Dementia. For that reason, it can be especially helpful for them to keep a list of prescription medications and supplements that they take. This can help emergency personnel decide on treatments to avoid negative interactions. It can also help the staff at an Assisted Living facility with their job of medication management. Be sure to include when, how, and how much medicine you take, as well as any allergies you may have to other medications. A physician might sign this as evidence that the list is accurate as to dosing instructions.

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