New Yorkers who are thinking about the possibility of being incapable of making their own health care decisions should be aware of the steps they need to take to have a health care proxy. Anyone who is legally considered an adult – 18-years-old or older – can have a health care proxy. However, it is often a concern for people who are elderly or approaching an advanced age and want to be fully protected if they cannot make the decisions on their own. There are multiple aspects of a health care proxy to consider. Having help from professionals who are experienced in these documents is a wise step for everyone involved.
What is required of a health care agent?
A fundamental issue to understand is what a health care agent is obligated to do and what rights that person has. Once there is a health care proxy, the agent can make decisions in the person’s stead regarding how nutrition and hydration is given to them if they are unable to decide themselves. An example is a feeding tube. The person should make certain the agent understands what they want if they are in that situation so their desires will be carried out. This can be listed on the proxy form. When a person needs artificial respiration or life-saving care, the agent can decide whether that can go forward or not. This too must be written on the proxy form.
Agents have the right to look at the person’s medical information and records so the decisions that are made are done in a knowledgeable manner. For some, sharing such intimate details of their life is uncomfortable and unwanted, but it is necessary with a health care proxy. The agent will make the final decisions unless there is an objection lodged by a family member and a court order is attained. The agent does not need to pay for the person’s care.
Navigating the complex nature of a health care proxy may require help
Estate planning and elder law can be difficult and having a health care proxy is a monumental decision. Because the agent has so much power, a person who is considering this step should be fully cognizant of what they are doing, how it can be changed and what impact it has with their future. The agent should be fully prepared to take on the responsibility and follow the law for these complicated matters. For questions and assistance with a health care proxy, estate planning and elder law, having guidance from experienced professionals with overlapping knowledge can be helpful.