If your elderly family member becomes unable to speak for him or herself, the advance health care directive allows them to name someone to act as their “agent." Eventually, that assigned person will become their “medical power of attorney.” This person holds a great amount of power, making the selection process very important for the benefit of your elderly family member. But just how is this person chosen to be their decision maker? Here are three pointers to help you and your elderly family member make the right decision.
The best choice for a health care agent is someone who is willing to listen - This person will make your family member feel comfortable when talking about life support issues and scenarios. The best candidate is someone that will put his or her preferences aside and follow your family members instructions.
Someone willing to act - Someone levelheaded who will advocate on the elders behalf. This person is not afraid to ask questions or demand answers. This person should also be able to make difficult decisions, especially under pressure and won’t be intimidated by other family members. Ideally, the agent should be someone who can be firm and communicate diplomatically enough to encourage others to rise to their wisest selves.
Someone who is available - Above all else, the agent is someone who is readily available to put the elders responsibility first at any given moment. This person is to be ready at any circumstance, specially when the elder needs emergency help.
Knowing what characteristics to look for when choosing the right agent is important, but knowing how NOT to choose the ideal agent can be equality beneficial for this important decision. Here are just a few:
Don't choose an agent out of guilt - The majority of the time, the agent is a friend or family member. When considering agents, highlight the positives of that candidate rather than letting past guilt emotions get in the way.
Offended family members - Some family members may feel offended if they are the ones not chosen to be the elders agent. Make sure they are aware of the process and the reasons. This will, ideally, alleviate any feelings of surprise when they are communicated with the decision.
Don't have co-agents - Having co-agents proves difficult if there is a disagreement. Conflicts of interest may arise and make the experience bitter not only for the elder, but the rest of the family. Rather than having co-agents, consider a back-up agent instead.
Have a couple of candidates in mind but can't decide on just one? With a health directive, you can rewrite it at any time. This not only may change the elders chosen agent, but it can be amended to respect their wishes and views that may change over time. The only thing to keep in mind is giving the new agent a copy of the most up-to-date document.
Thinking about starting the process of choosing an agent for your elderly family member? We offer high-quality resources and education for the support community of your family member. Contact us for more information on how Eldercare Specialists can help.