If you have been asked to be a healthcare proxy or circumstances force you into the role, it means that you are trusted  to make important medical decisions on behalf of someone in your life.  Your role comes into play in the event that they become unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves. This is a significant responsibility and there are several important things you should know:

Understand the role

Familiarize yourself with the role of a healthcare proxy. You will act as the person’s advocate and make healthcare decisions based on his or her wishes and best interests. Your role is to ensure that their healthcare preferences are respected. 

Communicate with the person: Have an open and honest conversation with the person who has chosen you as their healthcare proxy. Discuss their values, beliefs, and preferences regarding medical treatments and end-of-life care.

Understanding their wishes will help guide your decision-making.  Discuss their thoughts on life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, pain management, organ donation, and any other relevant medical decisions. Ensure that you are aware of any advanced directives or living wills they have in place.

Familiarize yourself with legal requirements

Educate yourself about the legal aspects of being a healthcare proxy.  Topics may include the process of designating a healthcare proxy, documentation needed, responsibilities you have and any limitations on your latitude.

Stay informed about his or her medical condition

Keep yourself updated on the person’s medical condition and treatment options. Stay in touch with other family caregivers and healthcare providers.  Ask questions and seek clarification when necessary. This will help you make informed decisions that align with their preferences.  When medical decisions need to be made, consult with the person’s healthcare team. Ask for their professional advice, explanations of treatment options, potential risks, and benefits. Collaborate with them to make the best decisions possible.

Be prepared to advocate

As a healthcare proxy, you will need to advocate for the person’s wishes and ensure his or her voice is heard. This may involve communicating not only with healthcare professionals, but family members, and other involved parties to ensure the preferences of the person for whom you are advocating are respected. Your primary responsibility is to make decisions based on what you believe is in the person’s best interests, considering his or her values and wishes. This may require careful consideration and weighing of options.

Seek support

Being a healthcare proxy can be emotionally challenging. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups to help you cope with the responsibilities and difficult decisions you may face. You may even consider speaking with a healthcare professional or counselor if the pressure of responsibility is weighing on you.

Review and update as necessary

Regularly review and update your understanding of the person’s healthcare preferences. People’s views may change over time, so ensure that you are aware of any changes and that their documents, such as advanced directives, are up to date.

Remember, being a healthcare proxy is a significant role of trust and responsibility. Your main objective is to honor the person’s wishes and ensure his or her best interests are protected throughout their healthcare journey.