Your Role as a Health Care Agent

How can I make the best medical decisions possible for someone else?

Health care agents or surrogates hold a critically important role.  A health care agent is someone vested with the power to make medical decisions either through a power of attorney or state law.  If you have been designated as a loved one’s health care agent, it will be important for you to research the role so that you are prepared if and when your loved one becomes incapacitated.  Our Orange County trust and estate planning attorneys discuss the role of the health care agent below.

Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else 

Healthcare decisions, particularly when it comes to the end of life care, are extremely personal.  If you have been tasked with this monumental job, it may seem overwhelming.  As soon as you know you have been named as someone’s health care agent, ask for a copy of the power of attorney document.  This will allow you time to review and clarify any provisions necessary.

If it is possible to do so, talk to the person who named you as an agent.  Find out what their wishes would be if they became severely ill or injured.  Knowing their stance on crucial healthcare issues can help you to make a decision that you know they would approve.  It may also relieve much of the stress of your position because you have clear wishes to follow. 

At times, your loved one will already be incapacitated, leaving you alone to make the best decisions possible.  You should use the knowledge of doctors and nurses to your advantage.  Talk to them about potential procedures and tests. Do not be afraid to signify when you do not understand a certain course of action.  Gather all the information you can so that you can make a decision that you believe the person you are acting for would fully support.  

Anyone with elderly parents or grandparents should encourage them to act now to create a health care power of attorney or potentially a guardianship.  Your estate planning lawyer will help you to evaluate what estate planning documents you need in place to preserve the health of your aging loved ones.