California law simply assumes that anyone will be able to make their own decisions when it comes to personal care, and those rights stay with them unless they distinctly state that someone else should be put in charge of those decisions. While this is true for people of all ages, it is something that seniors may be concerned about most often.
The problem with this is that it can sometimes mean that people make their own choices, even when those choices are not in their best interests, and the medical professionals have no choice but to listen to them. To do anything against their wishes, even when a spouse steps in and gives other instructions, would violate the law.
For example, a story was related of a man and a woman who had to go to the hospital after the man was injured. The man was thought to be suffering from a concussion at the time, which is a brain injury that can be mild or fairly traumatic, depending on the circumstances. The wife wanted the man to get a CAT scan to check for injuries, but the man, who was awake to some degree, told them not to do it. As a result, they sent him home without the CAT scan.
However, after the man had recovered a bit and could think more clearly, he was shocked that his wife had not demanded the treatment that he needed. The problem was, though, that she could not demand it against his own orders.
It is very important for the elderly to know how this works so that they can take the proper steps when considering care planning. They will need to legally establish someone else as a person who can make care decisions if they do not think they will always be able to make them on their own.
Source: Lake County News, "Estate Planning: The right to make personal care decisions" Dennis Fordham, May. 03, 2014