Thinking about, and planning for, the unexpected is not something most people care to do, but it is important for various reasons. If you were to be in an accident or other situation in which you did not have the mental or physical capacity to make decisions, someone else would make medical treatment decisions for you.
According to the Illinois Department of Health, a power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document that names a healthcare agent who makes those decisions. By having a POA, you have more control over how your care will proceed.
Purpose of a power of attorney for healthcare
Although you may have a living will or other advance directive that outlines what medical treatments you would want and those you refuse, a POA for healthcare allows a named individual to make decisions that you may not have addressed in the other documents. This ensures that someone will uphold your values and wishes. Without a POA, someone may make decisions that do not match what you want, and it increases the chances of disagreements among family members.
How to choose your healthcare agent
Because your agent plays an important role, you want to take your time in naming this individual. This person must be at least 18 years of age, and he or she should know you well. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should trust this person to carry out your wishes, no matter what.
A good agent should also be confident to ask questions and make hard decisions under pressure. This individual cannot be a member of your medical team. Once you have chosen your agent, it is a good idea to discuss your values and wants so they can make better informed decisions. It is also smart to name more than one agent in the event the initial one is not available.