Establishing a Health Care Proxy
What Is It?
A health care proxy, also called a medical power of attorney, is a person who makes medical decisions for you and communicates your wishes if you become unable to speak on your own behalf.
Why Do I Need One?
Without a health care proxy, it is a lot less likely that you get the kind of care you want when you are most compromised. This is perhaps the part of life that matters most to have organized and communicated. A wide range of life-threatening illnesses and injuries can go on for a long time. Like, years. This is the case for mitigating your discomfort by having someone making clear and vocal decisions for you.
Imagine not taking the reins on a vacation you’re headed out on, so you end up in uncomfortable accommodations with bedbugs and screaming neighbors. While it’s unlikely you would suffer these conditions in medical care, it is possible that having invasive treatments that cause suffering with little to no reward could be an even worse scenario.
"Your proxy will be the person doctors go to when a decision needs to be made. Be sure to choose a proxy who can stay calm in crisis and express your wishes to a health care team." — Tracy Brubaker, COO at Vital Decisions
How Do I Choose?
Wisely choosing a health care proxy is as fundamental as assigning one. As you think about who you might ask, instead of automatically assuming who it would be, consider:
Does This Person Have a Clear Understanding of What Matters to You?
Countless scenarios exist for what can happen once we are in a compromised medical situation. It is impossible to consider and address all of them. What you can do is talk to your people about the quality of life — physical and psychological — that you want should something happen. For example, some people say, no extreme life saving measures if I would never be able to get out of bed again or if I would never be able to feed myself.
Be as Specific as Possible.
For example, if you say, “I want to be able to enjoy my grandkids,” “enjoy” means different things for different people. Some people are willing to be in bed for years if they can be with their people, as to where some consider “enjoying” to mean going places and being physically active.
Will This Person Honor What I Want Even if It Conflicts with What They, or Other People Who Love Me, Want for Me?
This one is important because the people closest to us are obviously the most emotionally involved and can suffer the most from having your life-or-death decisions in their hands.
Does This Person Have the Capacity and Willingness to Having Ongoing Conversations with You About Potentially Uncomfortable Scenarios and Outcomes?
Consider whether they have a nuanced understanding of who you are and are they willing to keep understanding more of you.
If you want to go ahead and assign your health care proxy, the forms are simple and straightforward. Just pick which state you're in here, and you will be directed to the appropriate paperwork. It's free to access and print.
Be sure to either share a copy with your person of choice or tell them specifically where it is kept in your home.
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