It’s a simple question to ask: Have you signed a Health Care Power of Attorney document yet?  Everyone “of sound mind” over the age of 18 should have one.  For Wisconsin residents, you can download a form from the Wisconsin DHS web site free of charge.  It is easy to complete and only needs to be signed by two witnesses.

You can name almost anyone to be your health care agent, as long as they are not your health care provider.  You will want to give this decision some thought, however, as this person may someday be asked to make a life or death decision about your medical care.

Once the form is signed, make at least four copies of it and store the original in a safe place.  Give out the copies as follows:

  • Your health care agent
  • Your primary care physician
  • Any specialists
  • Bring a copy with you whenever you are to be hospitalized

For those of you who want to learn more and be proactive about the care you receive if incapacitated, the American Bar Association has put together an excellent free health care power of attorney “toolkit” that contains the following tools:

  1. How to Select Your Health Care Agent or Proxy
  2. Are Some Conditions Worse than Death?
  3. How do you weigh the odds of survival?
  4. Personal priorities and spiritual values that are important to your medical decisions
  5. After death decisions to think about now
  6. Conversation Scripts:  Getting past the resistance
  7. The proxy quiz for family and physician
  8. What to do after signing your Health Care Power of Attorney
  9. Guide for health care proxies
  10. Resources:  Advance Planning for Health Care

I recommend that you download the toolkit and use it like a workbook.  And make sure to share what you learn with your agent.

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