A Healthcare Proxy is also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Healthcare Agent or a Healthcare or Medical Surrogate.
Recent medical advances make it possible for a person to be kept alive longer with the help of breathing machines, machines to pump blood and other devices. In addition there are many conditions today that make it very difficult for a person to understand and make valid decisions about their healthcare. Alzheimer’s is one of these conditions that you will need help with your decisions.
Although you may be able to make sound decisions and be alert and fully functioning till you last breath, you never know.
The Healthcare Proxy (or Surrogate) is a document that gives legal rights for someone else to make your medical decisions for you. This seems like a huge thing to hand over to someone else, and it is.
Let me tell you a personal story. I was my mother’s healthcare surrogate. My mother lived until she was 95. Most of that time she was in pretty good health and always had her mental capacity. When she was 93 the doctors discovered a spot on her lung. They suggested some radiation treatment. Being that my mother had a clear mind I let her make the decision. She decided to get the radiation done. At 93, as you can imagine, it was very difficult for her. She had some bad side effects that really compromised her health. As time went on the doctors kept doing radiation and mother got weaker and sicker. I finally stepped in and stopped the treatments. I knew my mother was not thinking clearly. I knew the situation was fatal and wanted the time left to her to be as pleasant as possible. It didn’t take long before she passed away. The one thing that consoles me is that I know I did the right thing. But without that legal piece of paper I would not have been able to make that decision.
This document is very different from a Power of Attorney. In order to make medical related decisions you must have a healthcare proxy.
You can select anyone you want to be your surrogate as long as they are willing to serve. It does not have to be a relative, but should be someone that respects you and you can trust. If you have no one like this, there are professionals that will serve in this capacity.
An attorney does not have to draw up this document. See website references on this page to find the documentation and instructions to put together your healthcare proxy. Be sure to follow all the directions to make sure it is legal. Let family, friends and doctors know you have done this. Give copies to your physicians and family members. Make sure they know that these are your wishes.
Make sure on your document you clearly designate the treatments you would want (palliative care) and those you do not want (such as breathing machines, etc.). If you are unsure of your choices, get the opinion of your doctor. They will know you and your medical history better than anyone. They also know what medicine can and cannot do. Your doctor can help you draw that line when it comes time.