You want to be prepared for the future – and all the possibilities that it holds, including the chance that you may be unable to speak for yourself and direct your own care at some point prior to your death.
An advance health care directive is essential, but advance directives can’t really anticipate every possible twist and turn that can happen, so it’s also good to grant someone your medical power of attorney (POA) whenever possible. Before you make that decision, however, you need to have some deep discussions with the person you’re considering for the role.
Here are some of the most important things to ask:
1. Are they comfortable with the role?
Even very capable people can struggle under the kind of pressure a medical POA can feel when they’re faced with life-and-death or end-of-life decisions – and that struggle could make them indecisive. Some people may simply not want to take on that kind of responsibility.
2. Are they comfortable with your choices?
You need to be very clear about your feelings regarding things like life support, feeding tubes, pain management and other issues – and you need to make sure that the person who has your medical POA will respect your wishes in that area. If you and your POA are at odds ethnically or religiously over anything, you should probably pick someone else for the role.
3. Are they comfortable with authority?
This is a two-fold question. First, you need to know if your medical POA can be assertive with authority figures, like doctors. That means asking questions, making decisions and (possibly) even challenging a doctor’s opinion. Second, you need to know if your medical POA is capable of exerting their own authority when needed – even in the face of opposition from others in your family who may have different ideas about what should happen.
Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do need to take a careful approach to issues like these so you can make sure that your wishes are always respected.