Health care agents (or surrogates/proxies/powers of attorney) play a much bigger role in fulfilling your clients’ health care wishes than you or your clients may realize. The findings from one of just a few studies on this topic may surprise you.
Did you know:
- Health care agents make medical decisions for about half of the adults over 65 who are hospitalized. Flipping it around, this means that on average, half your clients over 65 who are admitted to a hospital will be unable to make at least some of their own medical decisions.
- In more than half of the instances where an agent must act, the agent is making decisions about life-sustaining treatments.
- In about a quarter of cases, the health care agent is making all medical decisions for the patient.
These statistics make it clear that choosing a surrogate decision-maker should entail a client giving serious, deliberate thought to who will best represent their interests and wishes. As we know, the “logical” family member may — or may not — serve us best. A spouse is not always the best choice. The oldest adult child is not necessarily the best choice. Naming all adult children as co-agents is almost always not the best choice. Sometimes the best person is not even a blood relative.
Next week might be a good time to share this brief message with your clients and your prospects. It is, after all, National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16-22). The idea that one should carefully consider one’s choice of health care agent is a very discreet message, works well as a stand-alone communication, and has accompanying resources to guide people through the next step.
To help your clients, prospects, or your community at large evaluate who would make a good health care agent, you can share with them this newly-released health care proxy guide from the Conversation Project: How to Choose a Health Care Proxy & How to Be a Health Care Proxy. And for additional guidance on being a good health care agent, you can refer them to the ABA’s proxy guide: Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else.
Randi J. Siegel, MBA, is the President of DocuBank® (docubank.com), which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 250,000+ enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is active in health education and public engagement related to advance care planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128