At the Meurer Law Offices in Denver, we often are asked what people should consider when choosing your medical / healthcare POA agent. Choosing a person to have durable power of attorney for your health care is an important decision. You should make this choise in advance of actually needing it, especially because there is a lot to consider in the midst of such a situation where durable power of attorney would be needed.
Deciding who will be in charge of your life is never a decision to consider lightly.
What is Power of Attorney?
Medical power of attorney permits another person to make medical or health-related decisions for you when you are unable or incapable of doing so. It is used often when there has been a serious accident or unexpected event that has made you unable to care for your own affairs directly. Choosing your medical / healthcare POA agent defines who is in charge of your care and is generally more flexible than a living will. In the state of Colorado, there are no default people who become your agent if you have not named one, so it is important to take care to name your agent.
Factors to Consider
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your agent. Considering these aspects may help you make the best possible choice when determining your health care agent.
- Trust: One of the most important factors in choosing a health care agent is trust. Do you trust this person completely? After all, they will be making all of your medical decisions for you so it is important that you trust them to do what is in your best interest. Many people choose loved ones: spouses, partners, children, close relatives, or close friends. Regardless of the person you choose, you should feel very comfortable with the choices this person will make for you on your behalf.
- Assertiveness: Whomever you choose to be your medical agent, they may need to be capable of facing opposition to fulfilling your wishes. Particularly, in circumstances regarding end of life care decisions, not all interested parties (such as other family and friends) may be in agreement with the decisions you may have requested. In fulfilling your best interests, your agent may need both assertiveness and a strong will to ensure your wishes are enacted.
- Proximity: While it is not necessary that your agent live in the same city or even state, it may be preferable. In cases of long-term illness or even emergencies, your agent may need to be close by for long periods of time to act on your behalf. Keep this in mind when you choose someone and make sure they are aware of their responsibilities.
Who is Responsible for Your Finances?
It might actually be wise to make the same person responsible for both your health decisions and your financial decisions. If you have determined it is necessary to name a different person to each responsibility, it will be additionally important that they get along well and are capable of working well together. For example, you would not want the person responsible for your finances to delay payment on your medical bills because they disagree with the medical decisions being made. Over a longer period, this type of behavior could make circumstances more difficult and complicated.
In some states, there are specific rules about who can and cannot be named as your health care agent. For example, in some states, you cannot name a health care professional, such as a doctor or a hospital employee to be named when choosing your medical / healthcare POA agent. You may, however, be able to name such a person if they are related to you. Be sure to understand what the rules are prior to choosing your agent. If you have questions about the restrictions in the state of Colorado, come see us at the Meurer Law Offices in Denver.
Naming Multiple Agents
Though you may be allowed to name more than one person to make healthcare decisions, it is best to choose one. This is true even if you have two or more suitable people who have committed to working together. Given human nature and time, there will likely be problems. You would not want disagreements to interfere with your care during some of the most critical decisions. Feuding agents may even need to involve courts to settle their disagreements. This is not something anyone needs in the midst of critical care.
If your first choice were unable or not available to fulfill the role requirements for healthcare power of attorney, it would be wise to have at least one alternate agent. In naming alternates, ensure that you give this decision the same careful consideration you gave when deciding on your first choice.
If you are not sure who to name or are having a difficult time deciding who your health care agent should be, keep in mind that you are not required to make this decision. In fact, if you are unsure, it may be better not to name anyone yet. Having not picked someone out in advance may be a letter choice than choosing the wrong person altogether.
Regardless of whether you name an agent, you should still complete a living will or health care declaration. Medical personnel are required to fulfill your wishes, as directed, in such a document. If you choose to not have an agent at this time, be sure that your doctor and hospital have your living will on file and that you have discussed your choices with your health care provider. Some hospitals will even help you get this paperwork on file when working with them for minor health care decisions.
Ultimately, choosing your health care agent should be is a very important decision that you should make with care and consideration. If you need assistance with knowing our state’s laws or further guidance in making your choice, contact us at the Meurer Law Offices in Denver, our legal experts can help protect you and your lifetime of hard work.