If you’re in the process of completing your advance directive, you may have put some thought into assigning a health care proxy.
A healthcare proxy is someone you have chosen to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Choosing a proxy is a significant decision. Many experts recommend that you make it before you are facing down any kind of major medical situation or illness.
Below are a series of questions to consider as you go about choosing a health care proxy, and what to do after you’ve found someone.
How to Choose Your Proxy
There are several questions you should ask yourself when considering who to make your healthcare proxy. Let’s break them down into several areas:
- The Practical: Do they live near you? Do they have the time, ability and willingness to accompany you to doctor’s appointments, or to be at your side during a longer hospital stay? Are they generally available during periods of emergency and do not travel frequently?
- The Ideological: Do you trust them to generally keep your best interests at heart and keep your preferences in mind? Are you able to have candid conversations with them about your beliefs, preferences, standard-of-life, and other potentially painful topics? If you know you are considering a limit to lifesaving measures, do you trust them to follow through with that difficult decision?
- Personality: Are they someone who is willing and able to ask follow-up questions to busy doctors? Do you trust them to stand up for your preferences to medical professionals or members of your family? Are they well-organized and fast on their feet? Will their emotional connection to you get in the way of your preferences?
If you’ve found someone who works when considering all these questions, congratulations! You’ve found your healthcare proxy.
So You’ve Chosen a Healthcare Proxy…Now What?
After finding your proxy, here are several steps follow in order to make it official.
- Find Backup. Once you’ve done all the work of finding a healthcare proxy, it is worth your while to find a second person. Many states will allow you to list a backup option on your forms, and preparing someone else to make decisions is a good way to ensure you’re ready for whatever life throws at you
- Have a conversation. Having a conversation about your medical choices and preferences can be a difficult task. However, it is a critical part of your proxy’s role for them to understand your preferences and ideas. As a result, you need to be able to communicate well with them.
- Fill Out the Paperwork. You do not need a lawyer to establish a healthcare proxy, but many states will have their own individualized forms you can fill out and sign with your proxy. Be sure to fill out the forms, give one to your proxy to file. Be sure to also upload a digital copy to Jazmine.com, so it can be accessed in the case of an emergency. The proxy agreement will only go into effect only when your doctor declares you unable to make decisions for yourself.
- Revise Regularly. Once every couple of years, make an appointment with yourself to sit down and review your healthcare proxies. Are they still the best choice for you? Should you consider someone else? This may feel like a lot of work, but is ultimately worth it to ensure that the best person possible is making decisions for you.