• Richelle Godwin

Straight Talk on HCDPOA: What is a Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney?

Having the right person advocating for your health care wishes is essential, learn more about what a Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney can do for you and your loved ones.

Having the right person advocating for your health care wishes is similar to having your wedding table be perfect.

When I was a child, I felt secure and knew my mom always had my back. She played endless games of checkers with me on the wool rug, helped me navigate my friendships and understand not only what my values were but what true friendship was. As I grew up, I knew she would always support me and stand up for what was right. The day before my wedding, we were decorating the reception table with lots of tulle, tulips, and lights. The effect wasn’t quite...me. Even though my amazing mother was by my side trying to support me, she didn’t completely get what I wanted. It had nothing to do with not loving me or truly knowing my style, she just wasn’t fully equipped to handle the situation. But one of my dearest friend’s mothers knew exactly what to do. She threw the white fluffy and gaudy tulle away and delicately placed the elegant tulips on the table, strewn the twinkling lights around, and created my unknown vision.


Having the right person by your side when you are unable to communicate your wishes, when you are incapacitated or maybe need additional help advocating for yourself in times of healthcare needs or crisis is a must. This is where having a Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney (Healthcare DPOA) also known as a Health Care Agent will be your key to successfully carrying out your healthcare wishes.


This person you appointed is not only someone representing you and your healthcare wishes, but someone who can also emotionally handle difficult situations, such as informing the healthcare team and your family of these decisions. It can be as simple as following a guide book that you shared with them or the DPOA knowing when comfort measures are needed.


Who is the person in your life who can emotionally handle difficult situations and communicate to your loved ones?


It’s also important to know that a Healthcare Agent/HCDPOA is not a simple ask, nor should it necessarily be someone as simple to choose such as your spouse or child. It’s important to reflect on who will be the best choice for you and can stand up to your family and loved ones while advocating your wishes. It is also best practice to ask them if they are willing to accept this responsibility and spend time learning about all of your end-of-life wishes. Once you have your primary agent in place, choosing a first alternate and even second alternate is something to strongly consider as well. This might be if your HCDPOA is unable to fulfill their role, such as you and your agent may be involved in a car accident and neither of you are able to make healthcare decisions. Having an alternate agent will ensure they can legally advocate on your behalf and your wishes will be followed. Just like asking your primary agent, talk with your first and second alternate about your healthcare wishes.


Also noted, having co-agents (more than one person as your HCDPOA) can make things messy as differing opinions and emotional stress at a time when decisions are being made may slow your wishes and cause more harm than good. If you do not have a HCDPOA/Healthcare Agent, this role automatically falls to your spouse and then the next of kin. Both can pose a problem should that person not have any prior knowledge of your healthcare wishes and/or may not be the best advocate for you (again, it is an emotional time and maybe they aren’t the best fit for this role). Remember, the HCDPOA is someone who talks on your behalf when you are unable to do so.


I encourage you to review your power of attorney choices on an annual basis, such as a birthday, and remind the agent of your wishes. Maybe your wishes have changed or maybe the agent no longer is able to carry out this responsibility. Completing a new and updated Healthcare DPOA legal document can be done annually, and can be a guide when communicating to your special person. The forms look like this one from Honoring Choices.


Some guidelines to follow when choosing a Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney:

  • Over age 18 (over 21 in Colorado)

  • Powerfully advocate on your behalf

  • Knows your end of life wishes and understands them

  • You trust to make difficult decisions if a situation arises that you did not discuss

  • Can communicate well with family members even during emotional situations

Having the right person by your side knowing your wishes, advocating for you when you can’t, and communicating your personal healthcare road map to your healthcare team, loved ones and family, is as important as having the tables “perfectly” decorated at your wedding reception. Because when it really comes down to it, they have your best interest and wishes at the forefront. They are letting everyone in the room know, “this is how the table looks” all while making sure you are fully supported. Sometimes this person is your spouse, other times it may be a good friend, but in all situations, your chosen and trusted healthcare power of attorney aka healthcare agent is the person following your requests.


If you would like Gentle Passage Doula Collective to help you fill out any forms, educate you and your family on your healthcare options and/or have an one-on-one session with you and your appointed DPOA, please contact us.


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References:

  1. https://www.honoringchoicespnw.org/

  2. https://fivewishes.org/five-wishes/individuals-families/individuals-and-families

  3. https://prepareforyourcare.org/welcome


GENTLE PASSAGE DOULA COLLECTIVE


The tools, resources and information does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only, not advice or guarantee of outcome. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the Gentle Passage Doula Collective Website, downloaded resources and/or educational material, or misinterpreted the information/context/educational sessions. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911. Gentle Passage Doula Collective and its members are not responsible for errors and omissions in reporting or explanation. No individuals, including those under our active care, should use the information, resources or tools contained within to self-diagnosis or self-treat any health-related condition. Gentle Passage Doula Collective gives no assurance or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness or applicability or the content.

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