In recent years the terms health care proxy and advance directives have become increasingly significant when it comes to patient care and end-of-life wishes. But what do these terms mean and what do they mean for you and your family? Here are the facts on and benefits of a health care proxy.
What is a health care proxy?
A health care proxy (HCP) is synomous with health care agent and is a person you select to make medical and health related decisions if you are unable to make them for yourself. The HCP must be at least 18 years old and should be someone you know will be comfortable carrying out your medical or end-of-life wishes after you have discussed them and put them in writing.
Advance directives are the medical wishes or plan of care you want to be followed in a situation when you are unable to verbalize your desires. An example is a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR). Situations such as an automobile accident or unexpected medical illness can render you incapable of making decisions.
Why You Need a health care proxy
Regardless of your age, health, marital status, family members, or spiritual path, appointing a health care proxy is an important step to fulfill your end-of-life wishes.
Thinking of your death may be uncomfortable for you and especially for your loved ones, but making a plan of care and discussing it with your loved ones is the best way to have your end-of-life wishes followed through. A health care proxy does not have to be a spouse or next of kin; you can chose anyone you want. Just make sure this person knows your wishes and will fulfill your plan of care if you should become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
Advanced directives General Guidelines
A health care proxy is guided by your decisions that are placed on an advance directives form. This form is usually fill-in-the blank and/or check the box and user-friendly. The form asks whom you have chosen to carry out the decisions in the document and the specifics of your care.
A health care proxy cannot make decisions for you if you are competent and able to communicate your own plan of care. A representative from a medical facility can give you the forms for free, help answer questions you have, and be the legal witness to the forms.
After you complete the form, a copy should be placed in your medical record with your primary care provider; a copy for your own records; and a copy to the person appointed as your health care agent.