Before we begin, let’s start with understanding the scope of what a health care agent is for your health care power of attorney. When this role is first introduced, many people think of the extreme “end of life,” “pull the plug” type of situation. While that is potentially a role that your health care agent may fill, there can be much more involved when it comes to serving as a health care agent.
Over the past few decades, medical care has made dramatic improvements and life spans have gotten longer, but not without certain trade-offs. Living into our 70s, 80s, 90s, or older, creates a higher likelihood that we will spend some time living with physical or cognitive impairments associated with aging. So a health care agent might be going to doctor’s appointments and arranging for caregiving services, plus, this role can last several months or years, depending on your health care needs.
Select an Advocate
You want to select someone you feel will be willing to keep tabs on your health care and ask questions, plus be a good advocate to ensure you receive the best quality care following your wishes.
For example, if you don’t want your life extended by artificial means such as life support, you want to pick a health care agent that will honor that wish. If that goes against their religious beliefs, then they may not be the right fit for you. Also, if you have religious beliefs that are important to you, you may want to name someone that understands those religious beliefs and will honor their importance to you.
Now, you may be wondering whether it’s important for your health care agent to be local to you. It certainly can be helpful. Particularly when it comes to attending doctor's appointments and arranging for health care services. With recent technology advances and so much being handled remotely, it is not as critical as it used to be. They may be able to attend doctor’s appointments by phone or video conference and they can hire a local care manager to help coordinate any needed health care services.
If you’re in a situation where you have a loved one who isn't local, but you feel is the best candidate and understands your wishes, then we suggest naming that person as your agent.
Co-agents can be named, but we strongly encourage you to stick to naming a single health care agent to serve at a time. This is especially important in time-sensitive, emergency health care situations. Co-agents can slow down the decision-making process because more than one party has to be consulted on a decision and sometimes the parties don’t agree on the course of treatment.
However, if you do opt to name co-agents, make sure you clarify whether all decisions must be made jointly and what to do if they can’t agree on a decision.
Additional Considerations When Choosing Your Health Care Agent
When choosing your health care agent, here are a few additional questions and considerations you need to consider:
- Do you have a strong level of trust in your agent?
- Will your agent proactively educate himself about your illness and ask the appropriate questions of your medical care providers?
- How well does your agent handle stressful and emotional situations?
- Are you confident that your agent will be able to carry out and honor your health care wishes, even if he or she may not agree with them? (For example, if it’s your desire that your agent “pull the plug” if the situation arises, will your agent actually be able to follow through with the action?)
- Will your agent be persistent in making sure that your wishes are followed? Will your agent be willing to speak up on your behalf if he feels that your wishes are not being honored?
- Have you talked to your potential agent and is he/she willing to take on the responsibility?
I hope these considerations help you take action on this very important decision.
Get Help Choosing Your Health Care Agent
If you have additional questions or need more guidance in selecting your health care agents, the estate planning attorneys at Carolina Family Estate Planning are here to help you build a better life and plan for a secure future. Call us at (919) 443-3035 today or schedule a needs assessment call with a member of our friendly, professional legal team.