Healthcare Agents: Being One

Advocating for your loved one can be a difficult task. You should ensure that you are comfortable taking on this responsibility and have ongoing conversations with your loved ones about their wishes for end-of-life care. One of your most important responsibilities will be to communicate with your loved ones healthcare providers to ensure your loved ones wishes are honored.

How to talk with a doctor if you are a healthcare agent:

  • Establish open communication with the doctor.
  • Make an appointment to speak about your loved one's care.
  • Be assertive in expressing your wishes. Clearly state the reasons behind your requests without being hostile.
  • Ask questions. To be effective and to make informed decisions, learn as much as possible about your loved one's condition and prognosis.
  • Ask about the goals of the treatment plan - often. A physician's definition of recovery can be different from what is acceptable to you or your loved one. Seek the assistance of a social worker or patient representative if necessary. Such professionals can help improve communication between you and the physician.
  • Don't be afraid to speak to the facility's administration. If the physician is unresponsive, go directly to his or her superiors, including the chief of medicine, risk manager, hospital lawyer or administrator.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org

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