Why Choosing the Ideal Healthcare Proxy is Critical

This week at the Aging Well Conference in Arlington, I was invited to speak on the critical topic, The Decisions A Health Care Proxy May Make On Your Behalf. I've written several times about legal documents and selecting an executor and agent. While researching for the presentation, I came across valuable information on the American Bar Association website and want to share with readers.

The decisions a healthcare proxy will make on your behalf

  • Choices about medical care, including medical tests, medicine, or surgery
  • The right to request or decline life-support treatments such as medical devices to aid breathing, medical devices to provide food and water, CPR, blood transfusions, dialysis, and antibiotics
  • Choices about pain management, including authorization or refusal of medication or procedures
  • Admission to an assisted living facility, hospital, hospice, or nursing home
  • Choices about where to seek medical treatment, including the right to move you to another facility, hospital, or state
  • The right to see and approve release of your medical records
  • The option to take legal action on your behalf in order to advocate for your health care rights and wishes
  • The right to apply for Medicare, Medicaid, or other programs or insurance benefits on your behalf

  • Good advance planning for health care decisions is, in reality, a continuing conversation--about values, priorities, the meaning of one's life, and quality of life. When making a health care advance directive like a durable power of attorney for health care, be aware that just having a written advance directive by itself does not ensure that your wishes will be understood and respected.

    Related: How Solo Agers Are Navigating Decisions for Their Future

    There are several key points in choosing an ideal healthcare proxy and it begins with talking about your wishes and finding out if the person will follow them. These questions will help you assess and choose the best healthcare proxy.

  • Will this person speak for you in case you cannot?
  • Act on your wishes and separate their own feelings from yours?
  • Live close by or could travel to be with you?
  • Knows you well and understands what you want?
  • Is someone you trust with your life?
  • Will talk with you about sensitive issues?
  • Will be available long-term?
  • Able to handle conflicting opinions between family, friends and medical team?
  • Can be a strong advocate in the face of an unresponsive doctor or institution?

  • This guide will help you do a better job of discovering, clarifying, and communicating what is important to you in the face of serious illness. Remember once you know exactly how you want to be treated if you should become incapacitated, write it down and let you healthcare proxy, family and friends know.