health care agent is an important decision that will
help ensure that your wishes for medical care will be respected if you are not
able to speak for yourself. The following steps will help you choose and then
prepare your agent for speaking on your behalf.
Choose someone you trust to be your agent.
Think about who in your life knows you well and who could intelligently apply
this knowledge in different circumstances. Also, consider whether the person
could handle the stress and emotional turmoil that can go along with these
important decisions. Be sure he or she could handle this responsibility. It may
help to review some basic
considerations for choosing a health care agent.
things to include in your advance directive. And take
time to carefully consider medical issues and the types of care available in
different situations. Talk to your agent about your values and preferences for
Make sure your health care agent knows what
you consider to be an acceptable quality of life and how high the likelihood of
a full or acceptable recovery should be before you would accept treatment. You
do not want to limit your agent's ability to make decisions, but he or she
should know what is important to you.
Do not assume that someone
close to you, such as a child or spouse, knows what you would want. Your agent
may not know about or share your preferences, so it is very important that you
talk openly about your wishes.
It is not possible to discuss every
possible situation that might arise in which your agent may need to make a
decision for you. But if you talk with your health care agent about what
is important to you, your agent will be better able to make the kinds of
decisions that you would make if you were able.
Complete the necessary forms to appoint your
All states have a document you can use to
appoint a health care agent. This form is usually called a medical power of
attorney or durable power of attorney for health care. You do not need a lawyer
or attorney to complete this form, but it must be witnessed by someone other
than you and your agent. Witnessing requirements vary by state. This form is
available through your state's bar association or office for the aging. Law
offices and hospitals also have these forms or can direct you to
where to find them. You can also get copies of the forms for your state and
instructions for completing the forms by contacting Caring Connections
Your state may offer an online registry. This is a place you can store your advance directive online so authorized healthcare providers can find it right away.
Read the forms carefully. Some
states may restrict the types of decisions that a health care agent can make or
may limit the health care agent's authority to only those decisions written in
your living will.
Depending on the laws in your state, you may wish
to involve your health care agent as you write your
living will so that your agent fully understands your
Tell your family, your doctors, and anyone else
who might be involved in your medical care who your agent is and how to contact
Keep copies of your living will and health
care agent documents in a safe but easy-to-access place where others can find
Give copies of these documents to your doctor, your agent,
your family members, and anyone else who may need them.