Whatever your age, there may come a time when your physical or mental condition prevents you from making your own healthcare decisions. You may not be able to communicate what types of potentially invasive end-of-life procedures you want to have.
Health care power of attorney, or durable power for healthcare, allows you to name a trusted agent who can ensure that medical providers know and follow your wishes.
Who should you choose as a healthcare agent?
It is usually a good idea to choose both a primary agent and one or two backup agents. Make sure the people you choose understand the role and are willing to be your healthcare proxy. You will want to select an agent who you can talk to openly about your medical preferences and trust to follow your wishes faithfully.
You may also want to choose individuals who live nearby, or else would be able to travel to be with you when necessary. Keep in mind that your agent may need to handle difficult decisions under pressure: for instance, they may have to manage disagreements with medical providers or conflicts with concerned family and friends.
What types of powers will your agent have?
You can choose what types of specific powers your agent has. Common healthcare powers of attorney include:
- Access to medical information and records
- The right to authorize your admission or discharge from a healthcare facility
- The ability to apply for private or public health care benefits on your behalf
- Authorization to approve or refuse specific medications, procedures or other treatments
It is very important that you discuss your expectations carefully with your chosen agent(s). This helps to prepare him or her to make future decisions on your behalf with confidence.