Your Health Care Agent: How to Choose Someone - Topic Overview
Even if your family is involved in helping you make medical treatment
decisions, it is still important to choose one person to be your
health care agent. If you want one family member to be
able to make medical treatment decisions for you, appoint that person as your
agent. Your family's right to make decisions for you may be limited unless you
have legally appointed a health care agent.
Most states allow you to choose only one person at a time to be your
health care agent. Typically, your doctor cannot be your health care agent. In
some states, a person who works at the health care facility where you might be
treated may not be your agent, unless you are related to the person by blood or
If your mother lives in Phoenix and you're in New York, how do you help take care of her? Angela Heath, director of the Eldercare Locator Hotline of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, has compiled 10 strategies to help you cope. This article is adapted from Heath's book, Long-Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers.
Keep track of important information in a care log.
Identify your informal network
Ask for help from people in...
If your state allows, choose one or two alternate agents who can
fill the role if your primary agent is not available or is not able to do
Choosing your health care agent is an important decision. Not
everyone will be comfortable taking on this responsibility, so talk openly with
the person you choose before completing the process. Consider choosing someone
Is at least 18 years old.
well and understands what makes life meaningful for
Understands your religious and moral values.
honor your wishes and do what you want, not what he or she
Will be able to make difficult choices at a stressful
Will be able to refuse or stop treatment, if that is what you
would want, even if it may result in your death.
Will be assertive
with health professionals if needed.
Will be able to ask questions
of doctors and others to get the information needed to make
Lives near you or is willing and able to travel if
needed to make decisions for you.