Critter Corner: Preparing for Your Role as a Healthcare Agent

Dear Ribbit,

Welcome to the Critter Corner writing staff!

My sister asked me to be her healthcare agent when she completed her Incapacity Planning documents years ago. She recently had a stroke, and I felt ill prepared if my services had been needed. Luckily, she recovered. If she were to become ill again, do you have any tips for someone serving in my role?

Thanks for your help!

Bette R. Prepaird

——-

Dear Bette,

I am glad to hear your sister pulled through after her stroke, and I hope she stays healthy!

The Virginia State Bar offers an excellent Advance Directive Toolkit for health care agents, such as yourself, which also provides helpful tips for healthcare agents in your situation, as follows:

• Prepare in advance with the individual.  Learn what is important to your loved one in making health care decisions.  Do this before he or she loses the ability to decide.  Talk about beliefs and values regarding living, and dying.  Talk about spiritual beliefs.

• Make yourself and your role known to the medical staff. Make sure the advance directive is available to those who need it. At the Farr Law Firm, our Docubank service ensures that it is!  Keep a copy yourself, handy, to show to people involved in the individual’s medical care.  Keep in touch with these people.

• Stay informed about the person’s condition as it changes.  Medical conditions change.  Staff at the hospital change.  Identify the person who can best keep you informed of the individual’s condition.  Stay involved and be flexible.

• Keep the family informed, if appropriate.  You may have the legal authority to make medical decisions even if family members disagree. However, most proxies are more comfortable if there is agreement among loved ones.  Good communication can foster consensus.  But you may also need help in resolving family disagreements.  Ask for the facility’s patient representative or ombudsman, social worker, clergy or spiritual advisor.  Or ask for the ethics committee or ethics consultant.

• Advocate on the patient’s behalf and assert yourself with the medical team, if necessary.  Some medical people may not be as comfortable as others with your involvement. You may disagree with the doctor’s recommendations.  Sometimes, it is hard to disagree with medical professionals and institutional authorities. If you need help communicating or are feeling overwhelmed, you can ask for help from the facility’s patient representative or ombudsman, social worker, clergy or spiritual advisor.

The toolkit also contains useful information about facilitatingcontinuing conversation about advance medical planning.

Hop this is helpful!

Ribbit

About Ribbit: Ernie and Jannette, two African Dwarf Frogs were on the staff of Critter Corner for years, until they met their sad demise a little over a year ago. This past Christmas, Matt Scarlett chose Jeannie as his secret santa, and purchased two new African Dwarf albino frogs for her desk. Sadly, Ribbit’s brother passed away, but Ribbit is alive and well, and excited about the opportunity to answer your questions! Come visit him next time you are in the office!

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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