A few months ago I participated in a great event at Milford Regional Hospital. The Hospital is actively encouraging Milford residents and the neighboring communities (who obviously are all likely future patients there) to not only complete a Health Care Proxy but to also have a conversation with that Agent to make sure the Agent knows how the person he or she is making decisions for would like to be treated. At the event, the moderator asked for a show of hands as to how many of the 40+ people in attendance had executed a Health Care Proxy. Everyone had. The moderator then asked how many people had written down some instructions for their Agent, telling the Agent how they wanted to be treated. No one had. Several people had not even told their Agent that he or she had been appointed.
For the young and invincible, having these kinds of conversations with your Health Care Proxy Agent may seem like a waste of time. But, is it? What if you get into a serious accident and are unable to make decisions for yourself? For seniors, the medical crises that can cause death or incapacitation can come at any time. For us (and I’m with you on this) not preparing for a medical emergency and its potential consequences is simply foolish. We all have friends and relatives who have been stricken without warning. We have all been to the unexpected funerals of those who are younger than we are. Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll recover from that stroke or heart attack that you secretly dread. But what if you end up not well enough to really make medical decisions for yourself? What if you really can’t understand what your medical options are anymore, even if you can still talk?
Your Agent’s responsibility starts as soon as your doctor says you are not competent to make medical decisions, and ends when your doctor says you can make the decisions again. Suppose you have a stroke leaving you totally incapacitated. Suppose you then come down with pneumonia or the flu. Your doctor tells your Agent that you need to go to the hospital for the pneumonia. You may be cured of the pneumonia but the effects of the stroke will remain. Do you really want to go to the hospital? Do you want to get “better” so you can go back to staying the way you are now? These are just the kinds of questions your Agent may have to answer for you. Have you had a conversation with your Agent about what that answer should be?
If you need more information on this, you can contact me at (508) 860-1470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view my 10-minute Q&A Fireside Chats on Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/ElderLawFrankAndMary.