Unfortunately, there is no way to predict when a medical emergency could happen. But Californians can take measures to plan for situations like these.
When an individual gives someone they trust healthcare powers of attorney, they also give that person the responsibility of representing them and their wishes. This person is the healthcare agent. And the agent must be ready to take on this commitment and take action at a moment’s notice.
A medical emergency could happen at any time. It could be in the middle of the night, or even in the middle of the workday.
This sounds stressful, but it is a reality, especially when a loved one faces complex medical issues.
So, how can agents be prepared?
Thankfully, there are many ways that healthcare agents can prepare themselves. It is helpful for agents to:
1. Understand their duty: Knowing what duties the agent has by law as soon as possible can help reduce some of the uncertainty involved in this role.
2. Brush up on your knowledge: A healthcare agent does not necessarily need to have a significant amount of medical knowledge. However, they should understand their loved one’s current and past medical history, such as their medical condition, known allergies, what medications they take, or who are their doctors.
3. Know the location of important documents: In the event of emergency, it may not be possible for their loved one to communicate. The healthcare agent may need to provide insurance cards, identification, and other important documents to medical professionals. Knowing where these documents are normally stored will reduce the frustration of having to search for these in a hurry.
4. If possible, discuss their wishes: No one wants to talk about worst-case scenarios or the end of their life. It is a complex topic. However, it can be helpful to discuss these complex matters long before the healthcare agent has to act. A loved one might have their wishes listed in a living will, but this way, the agent can feel confident they are doing the right thing by their loved one.
5. Make sure you are willing: Agents should take the time to consider whether they are willing to take on this responsibility. It can be stressful to make healthcare decisions for loved ones, especially if it comes to making a choice about life support.
Every situation is different. And not every person can fulfill the duties of a healthcare agent. That is why individuals should take these measures so that they can represent their loved one’s wishes with certainty.