I Am What I Am

Stevie_siting_bookPerhaps you are like me and can remember the cartoon character Popeye and saying “I am what I am and that’s all that I am” in his gruff little voice. I often think of that character and his message these days – when I think about how I confused the role of Personal Directive Agent (PDA) with the role of Enduring Power of Attorney (PoA).

I have to admit that I was well into my second year acting as co-PDA and co-PoA before I understood the distinctions of each role. One might argue that the distinction is not that important when you are acting in both capacities – but it truly is important for both an Estate Planner and their personal partners (PoA and PDA) to understand what the roles’ responsibilities entail. Its also important to understand how important it is that the PoA and PDA have a shared understanding of the Estate Planner’s wishes.

So generally speaking and in layman’s terms…

…a Personal Directive Agent is responsible for making decisions about personal matters: decisions that include where the Planner lives, and what kind of services they have access to etc. The reason the PDA role is tightly linked with the Power of Attorney role is that generally speaking the PoA is responsible for financial decisions and legal matters. So personal matters that require financial support are dependant upon agreement between a PDA and a PoA.

Let me give you an example – perhaps the PDA wants to ensure the Planner has a private room in their care facility. A private room may cost more than a semi-private room – in which case the PoA must be willing to support that personal decision with a financial decision committing to support the financial differences.

For that reason, some Planners may choose to have the PoA and PDA be the same person. The rationale could be that holding both roles allows the PoA/PDA to make and act on important decisions quickly and without strife. Other Planner’s may choose the select two different people to act in these roles wishing the two people to support and play off each other as these almost daily decisions have to be made.

What PDA’s need to know is they cannot make financial or legal decisions for the planner in their role as Personal Directive Agent, and as tough as some decisions might be, they are responsible for making personal decisions such as housing, medication changes, and levels of care. It is important that Personal Directive Agents are clear about what they can and cannot do as they will be held accountable for the decisions they make – or fail to make.

Some examples from our own experience include:

  • The PDA was required to monitor and determine when mom needed a wheelchair – but the PoA needed to make the decision on whether to rent or buy the chair.
  • The PDA made the decisions about whether or not to vaccinate mom for the flu and pneumonia and did not need to consult the PoA. Likewise
  • The PDA has been required to make decisions about level of care for mom as her Alzheimer related dementia progressed – again not needing to consult the PoA.

If you are still unsure about the boundaries of the Personal Directive Agent’s role seek legal advice and look into the regulations posted on provincial and territorial government webpages. And take the time to learn more about levels of care from your and/or the Planner’s health provider.

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