Who Will Speak for You When You Cannot

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It is never too early to make some decisions for when your health is critical or you are at the end of life. Planning is important for all people regardless of age or health condition.  Planning involves writing an “advance directive,” a general term that describes your instructions about your future medical care. A Medical Power of Attorney is one example of an advance directive.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A Medical Power of Attorney (also known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney) is a legal document that allows you to name an adult to make decisions about your medical care. That person is called your “agent.” When you are not able to speak for yourself, your agent will make medical decisions for you. Your agent makes decisions, not just at the end of life, but any time you are unable to speak for yourself.

Who is best suited as your agent?

  • A person who knows you well
  • Someone who will follow your requests, regardless if they agree or disagree with them
  • Someone who is confident when speaking up for you, who you trust, and who is steady
  • One individual rather than a group, so conflict is avoided
  • In Texas, your agent must be at least 18 years old
  • Common choices for agents are an adult child, a close family friend, or an attorney

What would your agent have to do?

  • View medical records, check your health status, converse with your care team, and follow through with your advance directives
  • Pick where and who will provide care for you
  • Decide on treatments and things not discussed prior (with medical experts)
  • Help to set up your payment for care (with the person that is in charge of your finances, if it is not your agent)
  • Make choices for your body following death (donation options)

Having a healthcare agent does not take away your right to make your own health-based decisions. Your Medical Power of Attorney goes into effect when you become unable to speak, or your doctor determines that you are no longer able to understand the consequences of a treatment decision.

The Medical Power of Attorney is an important part of your advance directives.  It designates the person who will carry out your wishes.  But there is another important piece –  a living will (or in Texas, Directive to Physicians and Family).  It provides the instructions for carrying out your wishes.  To download all the forms used in the state of Texas, visit https://www.nhpco.org/wp-content/uploads/Texas.pdf. The forms are free and easy to use.

Advance Directives are something that all people should have, not just those who are sick or old.  Although it may be difficult to talk about or think about end-of-life issues, clearly conveying your desires can be a wonderful gift to yourself and to your family.

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