If you are selected to be "power of attorney for health care"

Submitted on Sunday April 15th, 2012

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16, encourages all adults to complete an advance directive. This document names a "power of attorney for health care," sometimes called a "proxy." The proxy is authorized to make medical decisions should a patient become unable to speak or think independently.

Being chosen to act as someone's health care proxy is a role of honor and responsibility. If your relative has selected you, consider these tips.

Prepare for the role 

  • Talk with your relative. Face to face, ideally. Ask how he or she would like to live the last chapter of life. Clarify spiritual or religious preferences. Talk about wishes and fears. For example, some people want to die at home. Others fear that would be a burden to family.
  • Discuss crisis issues. Learn your loved one's priorities. Talk specifics. What life-support measures are desired? Which are not? Is there a condition or situation your relative feels would be worse than death?