May 21, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

Free health care directive planning for qualifying residents

4 min read

Lea este articulo en español aquí.

The first day of the Farmers’ Market, on April 17, will bring fruit and vegetable sellers, food trucks and dozens of local vendors to San Benito Street in downtown Hollister. It will also provide a chance for residents 60 years and over to visit the Senior Community Services Booth where they can learn how to get free assistance preparing vital documents such as an advanced health care care directive and a durable power of attorney. 

“We highly recommend that seniors complete these forms,” said Teri Lingo Adams of Senior Citizens Legal Services (SCLS). “Everyone should have them prepared in case of emergency and before you can no longer legally make decisions for yourself.”

Adams said an advanced health care directive is exactly what it sounds like: “It is a directive that gives somebody that you will trust the ability to fulfill your wishes when you are sick or incapacitated. They will know, for example, if you wanted life-saving resuscitation or not, or whether you wanted to be put in a nursing home.” 

Monica Milla of Milla Legal Document Services often works with SCLS at hands-on events for seniors, helping them prepare their forms. She said that having a health directive prepared in advance can offer seniors peace of mind. 

“It lets you know that your health care choices will be carried out,” she said. “It gives your agent the ability to make those decisions for you without them having to jump through hoops or go through cumbersome legal processes.”

A durable power of attorney document is also important, according to Adams. This document comes into play when you need someone you trust to step in and take care of your finances when you are no longer capable.

“It can be set up to take effect right now,” she said, “if you do not feel like you want to handle your money matters anymore. Or you can have it go into effect when a doctor says that you are legally incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions anymore.”

Milla said that a serious illness could trigger a situation where a patient would not be able to get the best care and services without having assigned someone power of attorney.

“You might have to apply for government services like Medi-Cal or Medicare,” she said. “If you can’t do it yourself, you would need to have somebody who can sign that paperwork and apply for you.”

Hollister resident Miriam Ramirez Castillo attended Senior Care Day on Dec. 12, 2023, one of the periodic events sponsored by SCLS and Milla Legal Document Services at the San Benito Senior Center, and was able to get assistance filling out her health care directive, statutory will and power of attorney forms. 

“It is important to me to know how to do this right,” Castillo said. “I want to be prepared for when something happens. I have friends who are really willing to help me, and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them.”

Explaining her reason for filling out the forms, she said that she wanted to get them done while she was still doing well mentally and physically.

“It is just in case I get incapacitated or can’t think straight,” she said. “I want someone to be able to make decisions based on what I have written. Everything is in writing. So when something happens, it’s not up to the doctors to make a decision because I already did it.”

Castillo said she encouraged everyone to complete the forms before they are needed.

“I feel it’s important that you prepare for tomorrow,” she said. “If you do these forms, you can avoid problems for yourself and others. We have to protect one another and protect those we care for.” 

SCLS was founded 52 years ago with just one attorney and one intern, according to Adams. It has grown to five attorneys and a full staff of interns and paralegals. San Benito Santa Cruz County residents can get assistance with basic legal needs in many areas, such as resolving Medicare and Medi-Cal issues, dealing with elder abuse and financial fraud, debt collection, tenant rights and patient care.

However, they cannot offer legal representation for more complex matters like bankruptcy, tax problems, criminal defense, probate, traffic offenses or cases that would involve fees.

Contact SCLS at (831) 637-5458 or (831) 426-8824 for help and appointments. Office visits are by appointment only. The Farmers’ Market vendor map can be found here.

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