Having a disability can be challenging. Not only will you have to face a number of daily challenges, both mental and physical, but you will also have to deal with a number of legal issues, as you may need assistant making decisions in the future. Challenges that you may face include financial management as well as managing your own health care. Medical assistance is a necessity for everyone, and due to the high levels of privacy and various needs for consent, navigating the health care system can be difficult, These difficulties can be compounded if you face challenges that make it difficult for you to understand the paperwork and make decisions regarding it. That is unless there is someone appointed to make these decisions on your behalf. That is where the duties of a health care agent come into play.
What Is a Health Care Agent?
A health care agent is a person designated to make health care decisions for you. This can be for reasons such as your being too sick or debilitated to make these important decisions for yourself. It could also be that you difficulty making decisions when your mental competence is too low to understand the information set before you so that you can come to an informed decision.
The agent should understand medical jargon and be willing to liaise with you nurses, doctors, and other medical teams to discuss treatment options while taking into consideration your wants and needs. This way, you will have an advocate in your corner, making sure that your wishes are being closely followed for every aspect of your treatment.
It is important to note that even though you have assigned a health care agent, you will still have control over your medical decisions. You can have your health care agent work with your medical team, or you may choose to work with them yourself unless it has been decided by doctors that you are not in a condition to communicate your medical decisions properly or if the court has deemed you incompetent for making these types of decisions.
What Authority Will a Health Care Agent Have?
A health care agent will have the power to make decisions on your behalf in terms of health care, but they will not have decision-making ability in work issues, finances, or any other matters that fall outside of the scope of health care. They also will be restricted from making decisions that go against your expressed instructions and wishes. In most situations, your health care agent will also not have the ability to give consent for certain conditions such as commitment to a mental institution or electroconvulsive type of therapy.
When designating a health care agent, you can also set limits on what their decisions can entail and also what period of time or specific medical treatments you would want their assistance utilized for.
What You Should Consider When Appointing a Health Care Agent
Sudden illness and disability can happen in an instant, and if you have a cognitive impairment, it may be difficult for you to make good decisions on medical issues even when you are healthy, let alone when they have become injured or have fallen ill. Since time is of the essence, having a health care agent ready and willing to make those decisions on your behalf can make the process go smoother and ensure that you get treated in the manner that is in accordance with your wants.
But this is not the only reason to have a health care agent in your corner, willing to fight for your needs. Another primary reason why having a health care agent is critical is, if no one is in place, it can fall to family members to make decisions on your behalf. Even the closest families can become divided when it comes to making medical decisions on behalf of a loved one. With infighting going on in the family, it can take longer for treatment decisions to be made and sometimes even lead to possible legal battles. In the end, the decision that is made may not be what you had wished or intended, even though a family member thought it would be best. For those without close family, important decisions will be left in the hands of family members who may know little about your situation and desired medical decisions.
How to Choose the Right Person as You Health Care Agent
Since your health care agent will be making medical decisions that can affect your life, it is critical that you choose the right person to represent you in these matters. First and foremost, you will need to choose someone that you can trust. You will be discussing with your agent what you want in terms of your medical decisions and will want to make sure that the person you choose will stick to your wants and best interests. Start with a list of people close to you that you can trust and then ask yourself the following questions about each of them to assist you with making your final decision.
- Are they willing and able to make the decisions you choose, even if they disagree with them?
- Do your wants and needs align with their morals?
- Can they keep their emotions out of the decisions, so that they can make the right choice?
- Are they strong enough to advocate for you and your wants to medical officials and even family members?
- Are they comfortable with medical information so that they can ask the necessary questions needed to make an informed decision?
- Are they confident enough to stand up to medical staff and get answers and clarification to questions, so they fully understand the situation?
- Will they be able to make quick and informed decisions even if situations change rapidly?
When you find a person that you trust and your answer to all the above questions is yes, they are likely a good candidate to be your health care agent.
What Type of Person Can Be Selected as a Health Care Agent?
While most commonly, people will look to their family members to choose a health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf, you don’t have to choose a family member for this position, and sometimes it is not advisable. You may automatically think of family because they love you and you can trust them, but for some family members making hard decisions regarding your health can be difficult fo them, and they may have a lot harder time keeping their emotions and wants out of the decision, sometimes ending in a result that you did not want or intend.
Sometimes it is better to choose someone who may care about you but have less of an emotional connection. Friends are a good option because they do not have to interact with family members on a regular basis, so they may be less likely to be swayed from the decision they know should be made. Some people may opt to choose more than one agent, so there is a collaboration when it comes to decision-making, but this is not always advisable as it can lead to delays in treatment due to disagreements. Another good option may be choosing someone comfortable with medical terminology so they can better understand and communicate with doctors and other medical staff.
How to Finalize Your Health Care Agent Choice
Once you have determined the best person to assist you with your medical decisions, you will need to have some hard conversations where you communicate with them your wishes and desires when it comes to certain medical treatments and concerns. If they agree to represent your interests in the medical decisions you have requested, now it is time to finalize your decision. You will need to officially name them by filling out a health care proxy document. You will need to have witnesses to the document signing, and it is advisable to have it properly notarized in the event a legal issue arises.
Get Help with Your Health Care Agent Designation
If you or a loved one is disabled and wants to learn more about what goes into designating a health care agent or would like guidance on what it entails and how to file the proper paperwork, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and enjoy the peace of mind or having a health care advocate in your corner for when you need them most.