Life is unpredictable, and there may come a time when you find yourself unable to make medical decisions on your own. Whether it’s due to ageing, the risk of stroke, cognitive impairment, or an accident, having someone you trust to speak on your behalf becomes crucial. This individual is often referred to as your healthcare advocate, agent, or proxy.
While appointing a healthcare advocate may seem like a minor detail in your estate plan, it holds immense significance for your future well-being.
It’s important to recognize that advocating for someone’s rights within the healthcare system requires effort and determination. The system often operates with the assumption that those in control, aside from the patient, hold the ultimate authority in decision-making.
Many people feel intimidated by doctors and the complex medical system, making it challenging to stand up for themselves when faced with difficult situations.
Therefore, it is crucial to carefully choose your healthcare advocate when creating or reviewing your estate plan.
First and foremost, it’s wise to select someone younger than yourself. While no one likes to think about getting older and losing independence, it’s a risk we all face.
Appointing a friend or partner who is around the same age as you might lead to complications if both of you experience impairments simultaneously. Ageing is unpredictable, and it’s essential to plan for such uncertainties.
Secondly, choose an advocate who is not afraid to ask questions and can make decisive decisions. Your healthcare advocate has the right to say “no” to anything that goes against your wishes.
Thirdly, opt for someone who is a good listener and respects your desires. Your appointed advocate should be willing to listen to your preferences regarding your healthcare if you become unable to communicate.
It’s crucial for both you and your advocate to have a clear understanding of when and what to advocate for on your behalf.
This can be an emotional process, especially towards the end of life when the need for advocacy is most crucial.
Preparing your healthcare advocate is your responsibility. You need to ensure that your chosen individual understands your wishes.
These conversations may be difficult, as they force us to acknowledge the possibility of becoming incapacitated and unable to communicate our desires.
However, it’s essential to make your wants known and document them in detail in your healthcare directive.
The American Bar Association offers a free downloadable Toolkit for Health Care Advance Planning that can assist you in this process.
It includes a quiz for your appointed advocate, allowing you to gauge their understanding of your wishes. Personally, I gave this quiz to both of my adult children, and it helped us clarify a few ambiguous points.
Created by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, we believe it’s a valuable resource to have.
In conclusion, having a healthcare advocate is of utmost importance for everyone. Life is unpredictable, and anyone can find themselves in a situation where they require advocacy.
By carefully selecting and preparing your healthcare advocate, you can confirm that your wishes are respected and that you receive the care you desire, even when you cannot express it yourself.