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    Health Care Agents - Appointing One and Being One

    How should I handle my personal feelings when acting as a health care agent? continued...

    It is perfectly appropriate to seek help. People without medical experience cannot be expected to understand the health care systems and the medical issues that are involved. You should expect to need guidance in dealing with them. Some physicians can be quite sympathetic to the issues you are dealing with and, if asked, will try to help.

    If you feel particularly comfortable with a nurse, talk with him or her. Chaplains often have a great deal of experience dealing with individuals and families struggling with difficult decisions and can be very helpful, even if you do not share a common religious outlook. Patient representatives and social workers also may be resources. Look to your own friends and communities. Sometimes people you do not know well, but who have gone through similar situations, can be a wealth of support and information.

    Serving as a health care agent is both an honor and a responsibility. You have probably been asked to serve because you have a personal and emotional connection to the person making the appointment. The person trusts you and believes you can use your best judgment. There is no ideal standard for the perfect agent.

    You can only do the best job that you can do. This booklet highlights some of the challenges an agent may face and offers suggestions for possible responses; however, the situations covered here may never occur or you may encounter different ones. If you are called upon to act as a health care agent, it may help to bear in mind that you are providing a deeply-needed service to someone who is now helpless. This knowledge can be a source of great personal comfort and satisfaction for you and can sustain you when making difficult decisions.

    WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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