The representative you name in your medical power of attorney has the power to advocate for your medical wishes and make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Representative
Your representative can be anyone you trust who is at least 18 years of age: your next of kin, another family member or someone else. You cannot, however, appoint your primary care physician or any other healthcare practitioner involved in your care, unless they are related to you by blood, marriage or adoption. You can name an alternative representative to step in if your primary representative is unavailable. Once you’ve chosen someone, avoid potential conflict by letting others know your choice.
In Selecting a Representative, Ask Yourself:
- Are they assertive? You want someone who is comfortable speaking with healthcare providers and advocating for you.
- Are they comfortable talking about death? They will need to engage with the subject. »
- Do they live nearby? In a crisis, having someone local can be important.
- Will they respect my decisions? They need to understand where you’re coming from and be willing to honor your requests.
Early conversations matter. Talk about your preferences regarding the extreme measures doctors might use to prolong your life. Is your potential representative comfortable with your choices?
Looking Beyond Immediate Family
If you’re finding it hard to identify an appropriate person to serve as your representative, remember that they do not have to be a family member.
Some Options to Consider:
- In some cases it may be better to ask a nearby friend whom you trust instead of a distant family member.
- You can consider asking a neighbor or a member of your faith community. When discussing your request, let them know there is no financial liability attached to this role.
- Your local senior services/elder care agency may have a program that provides volunteers for this service. If you are on hospice, discuss this with your hospice provider.
- Some communities have geriatric case managers who may serve as healthcare representatives for a small fee. Inquire with the Aging Life Care Association for professionals in your area at Aginglifecare.org.
- Attorneys who specialize in elder law may also be willing to take on this role. Find a list of local attorneys by contacting the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at Naela.org.