Here’s the thing: Not all state’s are the same. Some include naming a Proxy (or “Medical Power Of Attorney,” “Health Care Agent,” Health Care Surrogate” or another name like this) and a Living Will, some only allow the naming of a Proxy. Since naming a Proxy is the most common thing, we’re covering it first.
If you become incapacitated and can’t speak for yourself, you'll want someone you trust to speak on your behalf. Enter your Proxy. Before you settle on a Proxy, here are a few of the things they’ll be in charge of:
- Make choices about your medical care and pain management.
- Request or decline life support treatments, medication, or surgical procedures.
- Decide where you can seek medical treatment, which includes moving you to different facilities.
- View and approve the release of your medical records and apply for benefits on your behalf, which include Medicare or Medicaid.
- Take legal action on your behalf to ensure your medical decisions are honored.
Now that you know what needs to be done, here are the characteristics that set a Proxy ahead of the pack:
- A person you trust implicitly and understands your values.
- Someone who has a clear understanding of how you want to be treated in a medical emergency.
- The ability to follow your decisions, even if they don’t agree or are put under pressure from family or medical professionals.
Your Proxy needs to be someone up to the task since these responsibilities can drag on for weeks, months, or even years. It could be a member of the family, a lifelong friend, or an associate you feel will put emotion aside and stick to what you want. A person who will remember: These are your decisions, not theirs, and always act accordingly even if things get tough.
Have A Chat
You need your Proxy to know well in advance to be on the same page as you. Have an open and honest conversation so they know how you’d like to be treated, and the types of care you’d like to receive. You could find out this person isn’t the right fit. What if they’re unwilling to pull the plug even though that’s what you want? What if they’re all too willing to pull the plug when you want to be kept alive no matter what? Better to get this all sorted out well ahead of time
You should also choose an alternate or secondary Proxy in case your first choice is unavailable during an emergency.
While it might be difficult to share these decisions with your family, please do so to avoid confusion. It's possible that some family members won’t understand the choices you've made, and maybe even try and talk you out of them. Stand your ground and let them know this is about the medical care you desire. Then tell them these aren’t easy decisions to make, you want their love and support, and you will offer them the same consideration for whatever they choose for themselves.
Pick a Proxy! Once you make the decision, fill out that part of your Advance Directive (you know, the document you already downloaded here...) with their name and any other information required and you’re halfway home. Next up, Living Will.