Do I Need a Healthcare Proxy?A patient advocate designation (also commonly called an advance directive, living will, health care power of attorney or healthcare proxy) lets you appoint a person to act as your agent for healthcare decisions in the event you become incapacitated. It ensures that your wishes regarding medical treatment are carried out in a scenario where you are unable to communicate them. Otherwise, you might receive treatment you would have refused, or put your family in a painful or contentious situation.

Having a healthcare proxy is something everyone should seriously consider. The Conversation Project (co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Goodman) found that, of people 65 and older who find themselves in the hospital, half are unable to speak for themselves. And no one can predict which half they might end up falling under.

In cases where there is no proxy or advance directive in place, there exists the risk of family members disagreeing or even fighting over what to do regarding a loved one’s medical treatment. It’s not just about what decisions to make; there can also be confusion over who gets to make the decision or even weigh-in. These are circumstances to be avoided if at all possible.

When appointing a healthcare proxy, choosing the right person is of the utmost importance. Appointing the wrong person could end up being worse than not having a proxy at all. This would be a great question to bring up with an experienced elder law attorney. The following are some key factors that the Conversation Project recommends considering:

  • Will they make the right decisions for you even if their own wishes are different from yours?
  • Will their emotional connection with you get in the way of decision-making?
  • Will they stand up for you (particularly in regards to other family members who may have their own ideas on the right thing to do)?
  • Will they be willing and able to ask questions of doctors and other healthcare providers, and get clarification if the answers are unclear?
  • Will they be able to act quickly and decisively in fast-changing and stressful situations?

Glenn Matecun proudly serves the citizens of Michigan in the areas of elder law, estate planning, and special needs law. Visit our website to learn more and schedule a consultation.

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