One of the noble things you can do in your life is taking care of your loved ones. However, when taking care of someone who is ailing from a severe health complication, there is always the chance that their condition may worsen. Things then become more complicated when the ailment makes this person incapable of making their healthcare decisions. This is why it’s crucial to prepare for such a situation in advance by getting a healthcare proxy.
What’s a Healthcare Proxy?
This is a legal document designating another person (a proxy) to take over your healthcare decisions if you can’t make them yourself. It’s an advanced medical directive that authorizes another person to make your healthcare decision on your behalf once a condition incapacitates you. Also dubbed as a durable medical power of attorney, healthcare surrogate, or healthcare agent, a healthcare proxy ensures that your medical preferences are respected and that you receive the proper treatment even when you cannot communicate.
What Kind of Doc is It? Are There Different Kinds?
A healthcare proxy is classified in a category of legal documents that are known as advanced directives. Basically, these documents give another person the right to make medical decisions on behalf of another individual in certain circumstances. Generally, there are three legally recognized kinds of advanced directives:
A Living Will
A document used to relay an individual’s healthcare wishes, especially those related to treatment decisions that will keep them alive. It contains instructions addressed to the family, hospital, friends, and other healthcare facilities specifying your wishes if you’re no longer capable of communicating them.
Power of Attorney
A legal document similar to a living will that designates another person to take over your legal and financial matters when you’re unable to make such decisions.
A Healthcare Proxy
This document allows an agent, proxy, or surrogate to handle all your healthcare decision when a disease or illness makes you incapable of communicating your wishes.
How is a Healthcare Proxy Used?
A healthcare proxy takes effect when a person becomes unconscious or their mental state doesn’t legally permit them to make any decisions. Suppose the severity of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or any other ailment affects your decision-making capabilities. This is when the proxy you chose steps in and starts to make all the medical decisions on your behalf.
A certified physician or doctor has to certify that you’re incapacitated before the proxy can start making the decisions for you. The healthcare surrogate (proxy) could be a family member, a friend, or any other individual capable of acting according to the wishes of the ailing person. It’s crucial to understand that if the patient’s ability to make decisions is restored, they can take charge and start communicating and making the healthcare decisions themselves.
Who Needs a Healthcare Proxy?
People with pre-existing conditions or those nursing injuries have a solid and valid reason to prepare this document. However, the bugging question is, do you have to be sick to get one? Actually, you don’t have to be terminally ill to prepare a healthcare proxy since accidents and health complications may happen unexpectedly.
So, everyone above 18 years can have a healthcare proxy. This is because the parent or the legal guardian automatically acts as their healthcare proxy until a child is 18 years old. It’s highly recommended for those above 60 to prepare this document since they are prone to terminal diseases that render them incapacitated.
What to Include in a Healthcare Proxy?
Since the healthcare proxy is a legal document that communicates your medical wishes and preferences on your behalf, it needs to incorporate specific information:
- Personal attitude about health and wellness
- Feelings and views about end-of-life care (such as life-sustaining care), palliative care, euthanasia, and death
- The preferred medical treatments in the event you’re unconscious or incapacitated
- Religious beliefs
- Your choice of healthcare facilities, caregivers, and locations
This document should be updated whenever you feel like it. Your feelings, attitude, and preferences should be clear to allow the proxy to make the most appropriate decisions on your behalf.
How to Get a Healthcare Proxy
While the healthcare proxy laws differ from one state to the next, there are insightful online resources that can help you create a comprehensive template that you can fill in and make a healthcare proxy. However, the best route is to look for a local attorney who can help you create this document at a fee.
All states recognize this type of document, although they may have a different name for it. However, it varies whether a document prepared in one state will be recognized and accepted in another one. However, this doesn’t mean that you should prepare a new healthcare proxy when vacationing in another state unless you stay for a considerable amount of time.
Are You a Healthcare Proxy for a Loved One?
If you are a family caregiver, or have healthcare proxy responsibilities you may want to consider additional professional services to aid in the long term care of your senior loved one. If your senior loved one needs support with multiple ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) like bathing/showering, dressing, feeding, mobility, toileting or continence it may be beneficial to evaluate professional home care or senior living options and Medical Alert can help you get started. Medical Alert has teamed up with A Place for Mom, the leading senior living advisory service in the United States, whose expert advisors help caregivers and their families find the right senior living options for their aging loved ones through personalized referrals, tour scheduling and move-in support. Their services come at no cost to families as A Place for Mom is paid for by its network of 17,000+ participating communities and home care providers.