How to Plan for Incapacity or Disability

How to Plan for Incapacity or Disability

When a car breaks down, the driver usually pulls over to the side of the road and activates the car’s hazard lights. If a boat runs into trouble, the operator may radio a Mayday call and send up flares to summon help. But when an individual becomes incapacitated, their ability to alert others that they need help ends, sometimes abruptly. Just as it’s important to pack an emergency kit in your car or file a float plan for your boating trip, it’s important to plan ahead for incapacity or disability.

Your Written Plan

One of the best ways to let your loved ones know your thoughts on medical treatment is to discuss your beliefs with them. For them to have authority to act on your behalf, however, you need one or more of the following documents:

  • Durable Power of Attorney. In this document, you designate an agent to make decisions on your behalf, which may include medical decisions as well financial decisions.
  • Medical Power of Attorney. Have definite preferences about medical treatment? This document provides you the opportunity to make them known. Similar to a durable power of attorney, an agent or surrogate will be named to act on your behalf.
  • Advanced health care directive. Through this document, you have the opportunity to ‘speak’ directly to your doctors about the care you want or would like to avoid.
  • Living Will. This is not a typical Will. Instead, it allows you to express your end-of-life wishes.


Long-term care insurance may be part of your incapacity or disability planning. Like most insurance policies, you’ll need to apply and be approved. Also, people over a certain age or who have pre-existing conditions may find it difficult to qualify for this type of insurance. It’s worth checking into, though, because of the peace of mind and benefits offered.


Discuss how to manage your income and investments with your financial advisers. Before incapacity occurs, talk to your agent under your Durable Power of Attorney about how to handle your finances if it becomes necessary.

Assistance Programs

People facing incapacity or disability may be eligible for benefit programs designed specifically for such situations.

  • Medicaid is a government program that generally assists eligible people with health care needs.
  • Veterans may be eligible for benefits covering incapacity or disability.
  • Employee benefit packages sometimes provide short-term and long-term disability insurance.

Day-to-Day Living

Talk to your family and friends about ways they can help you if you face disability or incapacity. Don’t wait until you are unable to run errands, pay bills, or make health care decisions to set up strategies for dealing with your day-to-day living arrangements.

Documents Speak When You Can’t.

Once you have your life care plans in place, make sure your loved ones know what you’ve decided. It could be a family member, trusted friend, or personal representative, as long as you inform someone you can trust.

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