A health care proxy is someone that you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf. Appointing a proxy can help ensure that you get the health care or medical attention you want or need, in the event that you are unable to communicate.

A proxy will speak on your behalf in any situation that you are unable to speak for yourself. Some situations in which you may need a proxy are listed below.

  • If you are incapacitated due to an unforeseen accident and need emergency surgery, a proxy can approve that decision and inform the medical professional of any potential issues you may have.
  • If you have Alzheimer’s and are unable to determine what type of treatment you receive, a proxy will be able to make that decision for you.
  • Your proxy may also be able to make end-of-life decisions for you. If you are on life-support, your proxy may decide if/when to remove the respirator.

You are never too young or healthy to designate a proxy, accidents can happen to anyone. If you are 18 years old or older, you should consider naming a proxy.

Before you choose your proxy, it is important to decide what you would want in the above situations. Once you have determined your wishes, you should communicate them with your proxy.

Your proxy should be someone you trust to follow your wishes.

  • Make sure your proxy understands your quality of life requirements and at what point you would like life-sustaining measures to stop.
  • You must be able to trust that your proxy will follow your wishes, regardless of their feelings.
  • Let your proxy know what type of health care providers or institutions you prefer. For example, if you want to stay in your home for as long as possible, make sure they are prepared to hire an at-home care service versus a health care facility.
  • Make sure your proxy is aware of your religious beliefs or any special care instructions.

Be sure that your proxy is comfortable making these decisions for you. Your proxy will be able to look at your medical records and make decisions about treatment options based on your medical history and personal wishes.

Health care decisions, especially end-of-life decisions, may be difficult for families or loved ones. If you have a proxy that knows and understands your wishes, it may alleviate some of the stress on your family.