Law for Older Americans

Health Care Advance Directives

How do you select a health-care agent?

The choice of agent is the most important part of this process. Your agent will have great power if you become incapacitated. There is normally no formal oversight of your agent's decisions. Therefore, follow these guidelines:

  • Speak to the person beforehand and explain your intentions. Confirm his or her willingness to act and understanding your wishes. That means talking honestly and openly about death and dying.
  • Know who can and cannot be a health care agent in your state. Each state has different rules. Most prohibit your doctor and other health care providers from being your agent, unless they are related to you.
  • Seriously consider naming successor agents.
  • Avoid naming co-agents. It adds potential for disagreement and logistical complications. If you really want co-agents, have a plan for what happens when there is a split decision among them.
  • If you trust no one to be your agent, don't name one. Instead, use only the living will or limit the authority of your agent, by giving the agent authority over some but not all treatment decisions, or by requiring concurrence between your agent and physician.

>>What is a health care advance directive?
>>How do you plan a health care advance directive?
>>Is a health care advance directive the same as a living will?
>>Why can't I just tell my doctor what I want?
>>Will doctors and hospitals recognize my advance directive?
>>What is the Patient Self-Determination Act?
>>How do you write an advance directive?
>>What kinds of decisions does a health-care agent make?
>>How do you select a health-care agent?
>>Are there any formalities of signing an advance directive?
>>Can you change or terminate your advance directive?
>>Where should you keep the directive?
>>When should you review your advance directive?
>>Is an advance directive still good when you cross state lines?


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