First, everyone over 18 years old, should have an advance directive. Accidents and illnesses come without warnings.
Second, included in the advance directive document is a place to assign a HCP (health care proxy).
A HCP will ensure your medical wishes are honored.....only when you cannot speak for yourself.
Have you thought about what medical preferences align with your values?
If you do not have an advance directive and/or a Health Care Proxy document, then most like the medical system, family input (and possibly the courts) will decide which treatments you will receive.
This article talks about the 5 biggest mistakes that people make in this legal document. They are:
The most important role of a HCP is ensuring you receive the care and treatment you desire (outlined in your advance directive), when you are unable to speak for yourself or you are incapacitated.
Your chosen HCP should be comfortable with honoring your medical preferences, even if they do not align with what they would want.
Here are some important details of what a HCP can do:
What a HCP cannot do:
Assigning a HCP is such an important part of an advance directive.
A HCP will only step in when you are unable to speak for yourself in a medical crisis. Therefore, your proxy must understand your medical wishes, and be willing to follow them, regardless if they differ from their views or preferences.
Here are some pros of asking a family member to be your HCP:
Cons of assigning a family member to be your HCP:
Choosing your HCP (health care proxy) is such an important part of your advance directive, that needs to be filled out before a medical crisis.
If you decide not to assign a HCP, here are a few things that may occur, when you are unable to speak, and make medical decisions, for yourself:
Taking the time to fill out your advance directive, along with assigning your proxy, will bring confidence that if you are in a medical crisis, you will receive the care you wish to have, and not those whom might enforce their values on your medical care.
"If you have not completed a Health Care Proxy, your family may be asked to make decisions based upon what they believe you would want done. If you have no family, or if there is disagreement about what treatment you would want, a court may be asked to appoint a guardian to make those decisions on your behalf".
The proxy, remember you get to assign this person, can only make decisions if you cannot speak for yourself and/or are too sick to make them for yourself.
You get to choose how much medical decision making control your proxy has. However, it is important to give your (HCP) health care proxy/(MPOS) medical power of attorney the ability to have some flexibility, because we cannot possibly think of all the different scenarios that "might" happen.
Each state can vary, so its imperative to do some research for the proxy role, so that you have a better understanding and are more comfortable with whom you choose.
Here are some common responsibilities your proxy may be asked to fulfill:
You may change your healthcare proxy at any time. All you need to do is to fill our a new document reflecting this change. However, please make sure loved ones, doctor, and old proxy, are aware of this change.
A health care proxy (HCP)and a medical power of attorney (MPOA) can be used interchangeably in a document that names a person to make "medical decisions only" for you when you cannot speak.
This person is someone that you trust to follow your medical preferences, regardless if they agree with them. They are your advocate and will speak for you to make sure the medical care you receive, aligns with your wishes in your advance directive.
You do have the power, if you so choose, to have your health care proxy make decisions on your behalf, even if you are not terminally ill or incapacitated.
For the most part, however, a HCP/MPOA normally doesn't have authority to make medical decisions for you until you are incapacitated or unable to communicate.
Trusting your proxy is an important component of this role. Having several conversations to be confident your HCP/MPOA is aware and willing to:
Take the time now, regardless of your health and age, and make sure your advance directive is up to date, and that your health care proxy is aware of all changes in your health, plus has a copy of your advance directive.