Getting older means a greater chance of serious illness. In some cases, a serious illness may affect your ability to make medical decisions on your own. If you are unable to communicate with doctors and family about medical issues, they may go against your wishes without even knowing it.
That is why it is so important to designate a healthcare agent before problems occur. A healthcare agent has the authority to act on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated by illness or injury.
What decisions can healthcare agents make?
Your healthcare agent can only act on your behalf if you are unable to do so on your own. That means you may be physically incapable of speaking (due to a coma), or not of sound mind (meaning a cognitive defect caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s). In this event, they make decisions about life support, CPR, palliative care, tube feeding, ventilators, and other medical procedures. If you have a living will in place, the person will be responsible for ensuring it is carried out according to your wishes.
Who should I choose to act on my behalf?
The person you choose, which could be a relative, friend, or a member of your church, must be trustworthy. You must rest assured they are ready to act on your behalf, even when encountering dissent from medical staff of other loved ones. The person must also be willing to ask questions of medical professionals, which can be somewhat intimidating for many people.
Finally, your healthcare agent must be able to put aside their thoughts and feelings about end-of-life care to ensure your wishes are respected. This can be hard, especially when you choose someone who cares deeply about you. However, it is in your best interest to have your desires communicated to others effectively when you are unable to do so yourself.