What Do I Do If My Loved One Is Incapacitated by COVID-19?

The pandemic has made it more important than ever to talk to your loved ones about what you and your family members would want if incapacitated by an accident or illness and unable to make decisions about medical care

What Does “Incapacitated” Mean in South Carolina?

An incapacitated person is physically or mentally unable to make responsible decisions about their own well-being. This inability can be due to mental illness, developmental disability, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs or alcohol, or other causes.

Most people infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without special treatment or hospitalization. However, the virus can cause serious illness or death, especially in older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer. If a person suffering from COVID-19 is sedated to be placed on a ventilator or loses consciousness, they could not make real-time decisions about their health and well-being and be legally incapacitated.

Don’t Worry — Plan Ahead

To relieve worry and stress for yourself and your loved ones, plan for the possibility, however remote, that you may be temporarily or permanently incapacitated due to COVID-19 or another medical situation. That’s why you should have a comprehensive estate plan with “advance directives” — written instructions that relate to the provision of health care if one is incapacitated. There are two main advance directives pertaining to health care, which may be created together or independently of each other:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney: This document authorizes another person to make decisions about your medical care if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. 
  • Living Will: South Carolina’s Death with Dignity Act allows competent adults to express their wishes about the use or withholding of life-sustaining procedures if they are medically incapacitated and terminally ill. This document is used to direct the actions of your medical care team if you are not expected to recover from your condition and unable to express your wishes about your care.

In addition to these documents that are directly related to health care, you may also want to prepare one or more financial power of attorney (POA) directives. These documents authorize another person to make financial decisions on your behalf. A financial POA can be limited (authorizing a person to make only certain decisions, like selling your car or accessing a specific bank account) or general (allowing them to “step into your shoes” and make any financial decisions you would be legally permitted to make). If you become incapacitated due to COVID-19 or any other reason, a financial POA would allow someone else to continue paying your rent or mortgage, bills, and other expenses while you are unable to do so. 

Creating an Estate Plan and a More Secure Future for Your Family

Advance directives are only one part of your overall family estate plan. You can also ensure your family’s security (and peace of mind) by preparing a will, trust, and other documents. Contact us today to help make this uncertainty a distant memory so you can focus on your future.