When older adults start making advance care decisions, choosing who will be their health care proxy is an important one.  Also called a health care power of attorney or POA. A health care proxy is the person who will make decisions on your behalf and follow your wishes if you cannot make those decisions any longer. This post discusses what a health care proxy is, how to select a health care proxy, and who can or cannot serve in this role.

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy is a person that you choose to make medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself. It is also the name of the legal document that you can name your health care proxy in. In California, the name of this legal document is called a California Advance Health Care Directive. The directive has two parts. The first is called a Power of Attorney for Health Care, and the second part is your individual instructions. The power of attorney is the document where you name the person who you would like to make decisions for you. It can be updated over time if your wishes or your proxy changes.

How to Choose Your Health Care Proxy

The person you pick to be your health care POA should be someone who will feel comfortable speaking up for you. You may have multiple people in your life that can do this. But remember that whoever you choose will be making decisions for you in a difficult medical situation. They must be able to set aside their emotions and decide what is in your best interest. A health care proxy can be a:

  • Spouse
  • Friend
  • Sibling
  • Cousin
  • Niece or Nephew

You do not have to choose a family member to be your proxy. A family member may have a difficult time making end-of-life care decisions, even if you make your wishes clear to them. So, it is perfectly acceptable to pick someone else. Your family members should know who your proxy is ahead of time to avoid any confusion or conflict down the road.

The person you pick should understand what they are being asked to do, what your wishes are, and be comfortable exercising their powers as your proxy. Make sure to have a conversation with them well ahead of any issues that may arise.

Who Can Be Your Proxy?

There are some restrictions to keep in mind when selecting a proxy. These are important, especially if you intend to choose a non-family member.

  • Your proxy must be 18 years or older
  • They cannot be a staff member in your facility if you live in a nursing home or other facility.
  • A member of your health care team (doctor, nurse, therapist) cannot be a health care proxy if they are currently treating you.

If you do not have someone in mind to be your proxy, try reaching out to someone in your community, such as your church, senior center, or another organization you work with. They may be able to refer you to a resource that can aid in your search, or connect you to someone who can help.

As with other aspects of advance planning, you can select another person to be your proxy at any time.

There are multiple aspects of care to think about as you age. If you or your loved one would benefit from a caregiver’s assistance in Orange County, CA, think about hiring one before a serious illness or injury strikes. The care staff at Optimal Senior Care Solutions are experts at finding a care plan that will work for your family now and as things change.