by Shannon Miller, Esq.
Since aging is inevitable along with the physical, mental and emotional changes that come with it, we must be prepared to take care of business if we become incapacitated. I believe that everyone deserves an end of life that is defined by them and in order for this to happen, you must have some legal documents in place.
Having a well thought out plan listing who you want to act in your stead (your agent) and the guidelines you wish to be followed are outlined in a health care agent document (also referred to as health care surrogate). Who you may trust to enforce your medical decisions should be carefully expressed in your Designation of Health Care Surrogate.
Are Family Members The Best Choice for Health Care Agent?
The most difficult role is the medical decision maker.
ICU and Hospice Nurses report that friends and close neighbors are good selections because they can be more objective in carrying out your wishes. Understandably, family members are emotional and may not follow your guidelines–we have seen this happen many times resulting in a bad death. Remember, a good death provides for each person to decide how they finish their lives– their wishes are paramount and should be the only focus of the designated health care agent.
You should select someone who is strong and committed to your instructions since it is possible that they may be opposed by family members and even health care providers.
Consider a close friend to serve as your health care agent, the one charged with implementing your health care decision plans. Friends can often be more objective. Siblings can also be a good choice.
Special Note: The health care surrogate law changed in October 2015 allowing your designated health care surrogate to act on your behalf even if you are capable of making your own medical decisions. This new provision allows you to decide if you want someone else to deal with medical issues, like obtaining medical records, setting appointments, or making decisions about procedures, etc, tasks you may not feel like doing if you are getting chemotherapy or radiation, or if you just feel sick. The new statute does not take away your right to make these decisions, but it does give you options depending on your wishes, and it allows you to focus on getting well or enjoying your time with family and friends if the end of your life is near.
How Miller Elder Law Firm Can Help
We have helped hundreds of clients establish solid health care surrogate documents that meet all laws and your wishes. We also have a current version of our designation of health care surrogate and living will available on this website at no cost. We believe it is important that everyone have these documents in place should illness strike.