When your loved one asked you to serve as his or her health care proxy, you may have felt trusted and hoped you would never have to fulfill the role. Then recently, you got the news you hoped you would never hear — your loved one can no longer make decisions for him- or herself due to an incapacitating illness or injury.
People are looking to you to make difficult decisions for another person that could have a significant impact on his or her life. You may need to decide what kind of end-of-life health care measures your loved one receives in the last weeks, days or hours of his or her life.
What information can help guide you through this?
Now that you are responsible for making medical decisions for your loved one, it might help to ask yourself some questions in order to help guide you through this time, especially if you never got any specific information from him or her regarding preferences for end-of-life decisions:
- What kind of life did your loved one lead?
- Do you know if he or she valued quality of life over quantity?
- Did you ever have a conversation with your loved one about what happened to someone else at the end of that person’s life?
- Did your loved one ever express any preferences regarding what he or she would want as far as medical intervention if he or she was dying?
Even if you only have limited information, the choices are ultimately yours. You will need information from the doctors attending to your loved one, such as the following:
- What do doctors say is the prognosis for your loved one?
- Do doctors want to perform further tests to confirm diagnosis or adjust the treatment plan?
- What can you expect in the near future regarding the condition of your loved one?
- Will the current treatment plan result in your loved one’s condition improving?
- What are the impacts to quality of life?
- Will the current treatment give your loved one more quality time with family?
- What other treatment options are available?
- What happens if this treatment doesn’t work?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can then make the best decision possible for your loved one. Perhaps you could discuss the options with other family members as well to get their opinion on the situation. Of course, if you only have a limited amount of time to make a choice, you may end up having to do so without any further consultation from anyone else. Ultimately, you must consider that your loved one trusted you to make the right choice if the time came.