QUESTION: Many people, like me, must use electronically operated life-support equipment. With the high cost of electricity, I was wondering, is there is any program that assists with this expense?

ANSWER: Yes, there is a program to help with the cost of electrically operated life support equipment. Southern California Edison has a program called Medical Baseline Allocation.

The Medical Baseline Allocation Program may be available if someone in the home requires the regular use of electric life-support equipment or has a qualifying illness. If the applicant qualifies, that portion of the household electricity used for the operation of the life support equipment will be billed at a lower rate.

Use of such equipment as an aerosol test, apnea monitor, compressor/concentrator, suction machine, respirator, oxygen generator, iron lung, motorized wheelchair or dialysis machine, just to name a few, would qualify.

To start the qualifying process, a two-part application must be completed by both the applicant and applicant’s doctor. Once the program is in place, it is the applicant’s responsibility to keep Edison informed of any changes in the type of equipment and/or number of hours it is in use. Changes in equipment and/or usage may initiate the need to complete an updated application.

For more information about the program, contact Southern California Edison at the telephone number shown on your electric bill.

QUESTION: Why do I need an Advance Directive for Health Care and if I decide I want one do I need an attorney’s assistance to obtain such a document?

ANSWER: An Advance Directive for Health Care, formerly referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone as an agent to speak for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.

Your agent will have the authority to carry out your wishes as stated in the Advance Directive about accepting or refusing treatments and accessing your medical records.

It is important to remember your agent has no authority to act as long as you can act for yourself. When you are incapacitated your agent can then make decisions consistent with your wishes. The most important purpose of an Advance Directive for Health Care is to identify to medical providers who has the authority to speak for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.

Even though an Advance Directive for Health Care is a legal document, you do not need an attorney to complete the form. However, if there is anything in the document you do not understand or if you want to expand the powers of your named agent, you should consult with an attorney.

The form, when completed, can be signed in front of a notary or can be witnessed by two individuals, one of which should not be related by blood or adoption and should not to the best of their knowledge be named in a will or trust.

This form is not only important for seniors to have, it is a form that everyone over the age of 18 should have in place. We never know, no matter what our age, when we will have an illness or accident that will cause us to be unable to speak for ourselves.

When naming an agent to speak for you, you should discuss your wishes and determine that the named agent is willing to take on such responsibility and can, in fact, act in the manner that you have designated in the document. You also should name an alternate agent in case the first named agent is not available or unable to act should it become necessary.

A copy of the completed form should be given to each of the agents named in the document and one should be given to your physician. It also is suggested that a copy be kept in the glove compartment of your automobile in case the need arises because of a car accident.

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