As we get older, there are more and more hard questions that we’ll have to ask ourselves so that our affairs are in order when our time comes. This is not something most of us want to think about, but it is a necessity.
One of these major questions is about having someone to stand as your healthcare proxy. This is a difficult decision for you and the person whom you are choosing so it is important that you make the choice properly.
A healthcare proxy is a piece of documentation which you name a person as your proxy or representative to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are not able to do it yourself.
This is also called a medical power of attorney since you are giving someone the legal right to make these choices on your behalf.
Making this choice does not mean that you should be terminally ill. You can create this document and choose a healthcare proxy at any point in time that you wish to do so.
When you do so, your proxy will be able to decide on how you will be treated in case you can’t communicate your wishes because of an illness or injury.
Naming a proxy will also mean that they will have access to all your medical records and information depending on the permission you give them.
This will enable them to make informed decisions on what the next medical plan of action will be if you are incapacitated.
However, a doctor will have to certify that you are not medically capable to make these decisions on your health before your proxy can have any say.
The decision of choosing your healthcare proxy is something that both you and the person you pick should be a hundred percent sure of. This is not to be taken lightly. Being able to decide who the person is that you will trust with your life should be an informed decision on both your parts.
This is a major responsibility and the person whom you wish to be your proxy should be someone who will be able to carry this enormous burden.
They should be able to keep a level head when stressful situations happen. Also, be sure that their emotional ties to you won’t impact on how they will act on your behalf.
It is important that they will be able to follow your wishes even if they are opposed to your personal decision. Be sure that the person is also easy to contact in case of emergencies.
When you are choosing your healthcare proxy, it is important to remember a few things:
– You should first ask the person that you choose to be your proxy if they will agree to this responsibility. This is something big that they will have to take on and should not make this decision lightly.
– Another thing that you should do is to inform your family members about whom you have chosen. This is a necessary step that you should do so that you can avoid conflicts down the road. This is especially true if the person you choose isn’t related to you. If you don’t tell your family about this beforehand, your proxy may have a harder time executing your wishes.
– If you have a primary care practitioner, you should let them know about your choice as well.
– You should have two witnesses with you when you go to sign your health care proxy. They should be able to see you sign the document willingly and sign it as well. They can be either a family member, medical professionals, or both.
– This document will remain legally binding until you cancel it.
It’s one thing to ask a person to “pull the plug” in case you go into a coma for a long period of time, it is another to trust them with all your medical decisions when you get injured or ill and can’t talk. Being a healthcare proxy has a lot of responsibility and it is important that the representative whom you choose knows what they are.
Here is a list of the responsibilities they should be aware of:
1. They will have to decide all medical treatments. If you have a healthcare proxy and get into an accident where surgery or medical tests have to be done and you are unconscious, this is where they will be called for to make choices.
It will be up to them to decide on the course of action that will be done for you. This is also true when it comes to administering you medications if you are incapacitated for any other reason.
2. One of the most common responsibilities that healthcare proxies have that a lot of people are familiar with is the decision about life support. This is also something that can be the hardest decision for your proxy to make.
Whether or not you wish to stay on life support should be known to your representative so that they may be able to follow through with your wishes if this situation does happen to you.
3. The decision on the medical facility you will be in also falls on your proxy’s hands. They will be able to choose which hospital, nursing home, hospice, or any other medical facility they deem best for you to be in.
4. Your proxy will also have the choice of requesting for alternative medication or second opinion regarding your medical status. The treatment options for your condition can be explored and decided upon by your representative.
5. No matter who you choose to be your healthcare proxy, the responsibility of communicating your condition and how you will be treated will fall on them. This is another hard job that your proxy will have to agree to. This is especially true if you choose someone who is a friend instead of someone you are related to.
Once you have decided on who you would entrust to be your healthcare proxy and they have agreed, you must now have the discussion about your medical wishes.
This is a discussion that you may not want to have, but it is crucial to communicate what you wish to happen in the events that you can’t speak for yourself.
This is so that your proxy will know what to do and the direction that you wish them to take.
Here are a few things that you should discuss:
– The most basic thing that you should talk about is your allergies. This is especially important if you have an allergy to certain medication so that there won’t be any complications.
– You should also tell them about any medical conditions that you are going through right now.
– Letting your proxy know about your past medical history should also be discussed since this may have an impact for your proxy’s decisions if the time may come.
– Another thing you’ll have to talk about is a list of your current medications. This is crucial for your health proxy to know so that they have the information to tell your doctor if ever they need to.
– Now the hardest and most important thing that you will have to talk about with your proxy will be your end of life care.
These are the major decisions that you have to make now so that your proxy will know what to do if ever they are put in that kind of situation.
These are your wishes regarding being on a respirator as well as if you wish them to do all there is to be done to revive you or if you prefer them to let you go.
Now all these topics are hard to discuss in person with your healthcare proxy. If you don’t wish to do so, you can always write all these down on a document called a living will.
This will be given to your representative with your healthcare proxy into one documentation called an advance directive.