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How to Choose Your Health Care Power of Attorney

How to Choose Your Health Care Power of Attorney

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Appointing a health care power of attorney (health care POA) involves an individual choosing a trusted, strong-willed, and assertive person and giving them the authority to make decisions on their behalf regarding their medical care and treatment. A person is free to choose anybody to serve as a healthcare power of attorney based on their relationship, trust, willingness to serve, articulacy, location, and some understanding of medical processes. It’s important to think carefully about the person who will assume the responsibility of making life-altering decisions.

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A health care power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual to designates another person to make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf. A health care POA involves two parties: the principal and the agent. The agent can use the power of a health care POA when the principal loses the power of communication through dementia or disease, falls into a coma, or has a lapse of mental health. In such cases, only a doctor can decide when a health care POA applies.

A health care power of attorney authorizes an agent to make decisions about withholding or withdrawing treatment, consent for health care, specific kinds of drugs or treatments to have or to avoid, facilities or doctors to work with, hospitalization, psychiatric care, and nursing home care options.

How to Choose a Health Care Powers of Attorney Agent

The best health care power of attorney is one who:

  • Is a mentally competent adult
  • Can make decisions even if the principal’s wishes differ from theirs
  • Can be capable of talking to, asking questions, and grasping the medical explanations of doctors and other providers
  • Can ask clarification if the situation and answer isn’t understood
  • Can be calm and make tough and quick decisions in a crisis
  • Will not be led by their emotional connections when making decisions

It’s important to choose a person who is trustworthy and one that the principal has a special rapport with because this involves sharing intimate self-knowledge. Proximity can be critical, especially in case of a long illness that requires an agent to spend weeks or months nearby to ensure health care wishes are followed by doctors and family members.

A person is also allowed to name one or more alternate agents if their first choice resigns or can no longer serve after the medical power of attorney takes effect. However, naming more than one agent to make health care decisions can cause delays or confuse care if the agents disagree on some matters. An individual can assign a new health care agent at any time.

A health care power of attorney can be a spouse, partner, child, friend, or sibling. Individuals who cannot be chosen are medical professionals, employees of a healthcare facility involved in providing treatment, nursing home administrators, or former spouse.

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