6 Characteristics to Look for When Choosing a Power of Attorney

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One of the most important healthcare decisions you will make is choosing your power of attorney. Depending on where you live, a power of attorney also may be called a healthcare proxy, patient advocate or healthcare representative. Regardless of the name, a power of attorney is someone you choose to make health and medical decisions for you if you're unable to make them for yourself.

For most people, having this person in place to make medical decisions when they are no longer able to do so can bring a peace of mind.

Some people choose to designate a power of attorney immediately after a diagnosis or before getting surgery. But really, you can designate your power of attorney anytime you want. You simply need to have an attorney draw up the paperwork. You also can specify when the duties of the power of attorney begin to take effect.

Who Should You Pick as Your Power of Attorney?

Most people select their spouse, a relative, or a close friend to be their power of attorney. But you can name anyone you want. The key is that you trust the person completely. You also should feel comfortable discussing your healthcare wishes with him or her.

While your power of attorney may not agree with everything you want, they have to be willing to follow through even though they disagree. If you feel pressured to change your opinions, then that is a sign that this person would not make a good representative for you. You need to find someone who is willing to respect your wishes.

If he or she cannot do that, you should find someone else, The last thing you need is to deal with family peer pressure or to worry that your wishes will not be carried out.

What Characteristics Should You Look For in a Power of Attorney?

Because your power of attorney will be handling your medical affairs, you want to choose someone who either has some experience in that area or has the needed skills to handle those decisions.

There also are certain characteristics you should look for when selecting a power of attorney. For instance, you should look for the following six characteristics before making your selection. Doing so will help ensure that you pick the best possible person for the job:

  • Lives nearby: Consider where your potential power of attorney lives. How close is he or she to you or your preferred hospital or care center? Keep in mind that a healthcare power of attorney may need to get to the hospital or care center quickly in an emergency. Consequently, choosing someone who lives out of state may not be the best choice. You want to find someone who lives nearby.
  • Is trustworthy: When choosing a power of attorney, it is important to consider the person's character and values. Ask yourself if this person can be trusted with such a big responsibility. Is he or she likely to follow through on the demands of being power of attorney? Will he or she follow your wishes? You’re trusting this person to speak on your behalf. As a result, you need to select someone whom you can count on and can be trusted. After all, he or she will be making decisions that will impact your life.
  • Can be assertive: Being a power of attorney is not always an easy task especially when emotions are running high. Before selecting your power of attorney, think about his or her communication style. Is he or she assertive or passive? Is he or she able to stand up to other people and hold his or her ground when under pressure? You want to find someone who will not back down when it comes to supporting your wishes, no matter how much pressure they get from family members and friends. What's more, the person you select should be able to communicate clearly without wavering or second guessing what he or she is doing.
  • Has some understanding of medical processes: Remember, your power of attorney is charged with making healthcare decisions on your behalf. As a result, you want to select someone who has some understanding of how medical processes work. This does not mean that you have to select a doctor or a nurse in the family. The point is that you need someone who knows how to ask the right questions, especially about medical tests. Ideally, the person you choose would be someone who isn't afraid to challenge suggestions or treatment options that go against your wishes. What's more, you want someone who is willing to research your condition and learn as much as they can about it. This type of person would make a good power of attorney.
  • Is articulate: Think about how your prospective power of attorney communicates. Is this person naturally a calm person who is able to communicate clearly and effectively, even under pressure? Or does this person become easily flustered when things get heated or emotional? Would this person be able to communicate your wishes clearly and effectively, not only to your family members but to your medical team as well? You want to pick someone who has strong communication skills. This means you need to really think about the person's speech patterns. Does it take him or her awhile to get to the point? If this is the case, you may want to reconsider selecting him or her. In challenging medical situations, the person you choose needs to be a decisive and strong communicator.
  • Has a willingness to serve: Remember that being a power of attorney can be a stressful and demanding responsibility, and not everyone is cut out to perform the tasks required. When choosing your power of attorney, talk to the person you are considering. Be sure that he or she feels that he or she could serve in this capacity. Encourage the person to be honest. The last thing you want is for someone to say yes to being your power of attorney, when in reality the role would end up being too overwhelming.

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