Are you a good health care agent?

One of the most important jobs you may ever have is to be designated a health care agent or health care proxy for another person, possibly your parent. In this role you will make heath care decisions for them if they cannot make them themselves. One of the best sources I know of for the forms to designate a health care proxy is provided by www.agingwithdignity.org Their forms are approved in more than 40 states.

Aging With Dignity recommends that you do the following things to be a good health care agent/proxy:

1. Know your loved one’s wishes ahead of time. Ask questions when discussing their wishes with them so that you understand what they want.
2. Introduce yourself to the doctors and nurses caring for your loved one. Make sure that they know you and know how to reach you. Make sure that they have a copy of the document naming you as the health care agent/proxy.
3. Ask questions of the doctors and nurses and follow through with them as they are treating your loved one so you know that your loved one’s wishes are being followed.
4. If you run into problems, ask to speak to the social worker, patient representative or chaplain of the hospital or institution your loved one is in. If a doctor or nurse does not want to follow their wishes, contact the ethics committee of the hospital, hospice, or nursing home.
5. Be courteous but be firm. Sometimes doctors or their staff ignore a patient’s wishes if the health care agent/proxy doesn’t push for them.
6. Obtain a HIPPA release form and have your loved one sign it giving you authority to see their medical records. Without it you will be often be denied any information about their condition or health.

Aging With Dignity provides a document called “The Five Wishes” which allows your loved one to specify in detail exactly how they want to be taken care of. It also has a place for them to name their health care proxy/agent. It combines both a living will and health care proxy into one form. Once it is witnessed by two people and signed by the person it becomes a legal document in more than 40 states. Call 1-888-594-7437 or go to the website www.agingwithdignity.org to order the form.

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