What to Know About Being a Health Care Proxy
If you are taking on the role of being the Health Care Proxy of a loved one, you are responsible for making crucial medical decisions on their behalf. If your loved one becomes incapacitated and cannot communicate with health care providers, you are their voice for ensuring health care providers respect their preferences for care.
If you are a Health Care Proxy, your role is to protect your loved one’s interests when they are vulnerable and unable to make their own decisions. Healthcare proxies have an essential, yet challenging role, as medical decisions can significantly impact patient outcomes.
What Is a Health Care Proxy?
A health care proxy is someone who is appointed to make health care decisions for someone else – that is, by proxy. These decision-makers include healthcare agents, who the patient appoints via power of attorney, guardians authorized by the court, or legal surrogates. Legal surrogates are close family members called upon to make decisions when the patient has no agent or guardian.
What does the role look like?
The role of health care proxy includes:
- Reviewing and staying informed about your loved one’s medical information.
- Consulting with the health care team and asking questions about your loved one’s status and treatment.
- Consenting to and declining medical tests and treatments on their behalf.
- Deciding where your loved one receives care, including hospitals, assisted living, and nursing care.
- Facilitating communication between your loved one and doctors and nurses to the extent that your loved one can communicate.
- Making decisions involving your loved one’s finances and insurance.
Depending on the situation, you might know in advance that you will serve as a health care proxy, or you might take on the role unexpectedly. Should you have time to prepare for your role, keep several things in mind:
- Talk with the person you represent. Understanding their values, beliefs, and preferences regarding medical treatment will help you make decisions consistent with their wishes.
- Become familiar with your loved one’s medical history and health care team.
- Review relevant legal documents. Your loved one may have a power of attorney designating you as the health care agent and a Living Will describing their end-of-life wishes.
Communicating With the Person You’re Representing
When you assume the role of surrogate decision-maker, it is crucial to understand the patient’s wishes and values. Since you do not know how their condition will change, it is a good idea to have conversations about their medical preferences early and often.
Having a Health Care Proxy is an essential part of your estate plan. You will be surprised at how painless our process is and how much better you will feel after getting it done. There is no better time to plan for the future than now!
To schedule your Strategic Planning Session, please call our office at 978-494-5036!