Illness or injury may strike unexpectedly and leave people unable to speak or care for themselves. Should the need arise to make medical decisions on their behalf, their loved ones may struggle with what choices to make or worse, disagree.

Naming a health care proxy to act as their medical decision-makers and advocates in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury may help people avoid burdening their family members and ensure their wishes get expressed and carried out.

Picking the right person

According to the Mayo Clinic, when naming a personal representative to make medical decisions for them should they suffer an incapacitating illness or injury, people may choose anyone who meets the necessary requirements. This may include their spouses, family members, friends or members of their faith communities. They cannot, however, name their physicians or other members of their health care teams as their health care proxies.

When choosing a health care agent, people should ensure the person they select meets the necessary state requirements to serve in this role and agrees to take on this responsibility. People may benefit by choosing someone willing to discuss the potential care decisions that may come up and who will fulfill their wishes and values should they have to exercise their authority as a medical decision-maker.

Expressing wishes for health care-related decisions

According to the National Institute on Aging, people may grant a health care proxy as little or as much authority over their care as they choose. For example, people may want their named representatives to only make certain decisions or have a say only under certain circumstances. Alternatively, they may trust their proxy to make the choices they would make themselves and would prefer that they make all decisions during their incapacity.

In addition to naming a health care proxy, people may also choose to create a living will. Such legal documents may specify their wishes regarding emergency and end-of-life treatments and may help guide their named representatives in the types of decisions that may come up.