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How Do I Pick the Right Healthcare Agent?

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Your proxy should be willing to speak on your behalf and act on your wishes, not their own.

No matter your age, it makes sense to designate a Healthcare Agent. That’s a person who can make critical medical decisions for you in a crisis.

Many people get stressed when asked to supply a name for their Healthcare Agent (also known as a “Healthcare Proxy”). As a result, they end up making a bad selection. They can also fail to share that information with the person they selected.

Forbes’ recent article, “How To Select A Healthcare Proxy,” says that while the odds of being called into service are low, the person we choose for such a role should be picked with great thought as to their availability and their suitability. Let’s look at these guidelines that can help with the selection.

Your Healthcare Agent should know you well, understand your values, and be able to distinguish your values from his or her own. The person must also be willing to discuss sensitive topics in depth in order to gain a true understanding of what you want and don’t want.

If you have close relatives, it may seem obvious to pick your spouse, your first-born child, or your closest sibling as your proxy. However, ask yourself if this person is the best person for the job. He or she may have to deal with push-back from other members of the family or conflict among family, friends, and medical personnel. Can they handle this?

Age. Your proxy should be available long into the future. If you want someone serving as Healthcare Agent who’s close to your age, be sure to also select back-ups, and select some back-up people who are much younger.

Geography. The person in the first position on your healthcare agent should live close by because hospitals frequently require a live human being to make critical care decisions. Your decision maker needs to be able to get to the facility quickly.

Choose Multiples or Co-Agents. Select more than one person as a healthcare decision maker. If the person in the first position can’t get there or is incapacitated, someone else will have to take their place. Naming more that one person at a time has advantages and disadvantages: How will they work together? If they can’t make a decision, healthcare providers will keep you in treatment. Is that OK?

Experience being assertive with Medical Professionals. If you have the option to select someone with medical training, someone who has worked in the medical community, or someone who has served as a Healthcare Agent before, consider them strongly. You do not want a Healthcare Agent who is passive or is unable to have difficult conversations.

When you’ve made decisions about your Healthcare Power of Attorney or Living Will, have a one-to-one conversation with each person you name—no matter whether they are in the first position on your document or as a back-up. You should also tell family members and close friends of your choice.

Reference: Forbes (April 10, 2019) “How To Select A Healthcare Proxy”

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