Early Monday morning following the long Thanksgiving weekend, my phone rings. It must be my alarm going off; it is time to wake up. Wrong! It is my uncle calling me from the emergency room. He tells me he had a heart attack and collapsed at work.
So, why is he calling me? I am named as his agent on his Advance Healthcare Directive. He just turned 67; I assumed he wouldn’t be calling on me to make his medical decisions for several more years. He didn’t plan on needing me this soon either.
As his health care agent, I am the person appointed to make his medical decisions if his primary care physician determines he is unable to make his medical decisions. I made it to the hospital as soon as I could, preparing myself to make necessary decisions if called upon. I don’t think anyone is entirely prepared for this situation since you aren’t often provided with warnings and must step in when needed.
My recent experience makes me reflect upon how most clients choose an agent. Most commonly clients think their agent’s authority will take affect at the end of their life; specifically that their agent will be making DNR decisions or commonly when to pull the “plug”. As my uncle and I learned, this simply isn’t always true. Luckily, he will recover but until then, I will with his permission, be speaking with physicians, assisting with appointments, dispersing medications and dealing with his benefits.
This is a pertinent example. The person you choose needs to be willing and able to step in upon your inability to make independent decisions during your incapacity not just before your death. When choosing your agent, pick someone who is willing and able to assist you with medical decisions with the understanding that they may serve for a day, a year or several years.
You should review your Advance Healthcare Directive periodically. It is extremely important to have a strong advocate. If you need to review your directive, please contact us.