Who is the Best Healthcare Agent?
When creating your estate plan and healthcare directive with your attorney, you will have to select a healthcare agent. This person will make medical decisions on your behalf if you become too ill to speak for yourself.
Generally, people will name their spouse or partner as their healthcare agent. However, as you age, the best person to represent you when you can’t speak for yourself may be one of your adult children or a close family friend.
Your spouse or partner is likely to be very emotional once you are sick enough to need a healthcare agent. In addition, healthcare agents have to be mentally alert and able to quickly process complex, medical problems in order to make a decision that best suits your previously stated wishes.
Healthcare agents also have to be forceful in the face of adversity. The agent may be making a life or death decision, and may have to stand behind a decision that may make your family members very sad or angry. A misunderstanding of your medical condition or a religious viewpoint could cause someone in your family to challenge the healthcare agent’s decision about what you wanted for the end of your life.
Healthcare agents also should live nearby so they can be present at a moment’s notice. Your medical condition can change in just a few minutes, and your healthcare agent should not have to get on the telephone or make a long-distance trip to assess the situation.
Once you’ve selected your agent, discuss those end-of-life decisions and give him or her a copy of your written instructions for medical decisions. You also may want to share these wishes with the other members of your family, so there won’t be any surprises during a difficult time.