Health Care Proxies: Do You Need One? – You’ve heard about or maybe have even been asked about designating a health care proxy.
Often, we wave off the medical worker who comes over to discover if we have one — we are in an emergency room and have other things to keep our minds busy.
It’s important to appoint a proxy you trust and who you believe will be assertive and honor your wishes. – William Hayes
But naming a health care proxy to make decisions on your behalf is worth some thought. The idea is that the proxy you designate will make treatment decisions whenever you are incapacitated and unable to communicate due to a temporary or permanent illness or injury.
It’s not automatic; a doctor will have to certify that you are indeed unable to make these decisions for yourself. At that point, your proxy may have access to your health records and other information depending on the permissions you give them.
This is a good reason for you to set aside some time to consider the whole proxy thing. Do you want to place restrictions on what your proxy can do or see? You should include these in your health care proxy document.
It’s important to appoint a proxy you trust and who you believe will be assertive and honor your wishes. So, make sure your proxy is aware of your personal attitudes toward health, illness, death and dying.
Make sure your proxy understands your medical treatment preferences — how you feel about and whether you would want palliative or comfort care; life-sustaining care, such as artificial hydration and nutrition and feeding tubes; and treatments you may need if you’re unconscious.
These preferences can be included in a living will, which will help your proxy make decisions on your behalf. In fact, many states combine health care proxies and living wills into one advance directive document.
It’s important, therefore, to update advance directives and living wills and to tell your proxy if your feelings or attitudes change so the most appropriate choices can be made for you.
Actually, you should know that you can change your proxy at any time and create a new health care proxy document. And, of course, when you regain the ability to make decisions on your own, you can go back to speaking on your own behalf again.
Keep in mind that your health care proxy only makes medical decisions for you. You may also want to appoint someone to make financial decisions for you, giving that person the authority or a power of attorney to act for you in specified financial matters. Of course, it should be someone you trust. Depending on your state, decisions about health insurance and paying health care bills may be considered financial decisions.
Your state’s attorney general’s office or department of health may post state-specific advance directive forms on their websites. If you don’t see one, call to ask where you can get one. You also can turn to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which has state-specific advance directive forms. You can ask your local hospital as well.
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