What Is a Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will—and Do I Need Them?

You may have heard about a health care surrogate and a living will, but you’re still confused about what they are—and whether you actually need them. These are actually important documents in case you were to get ill and not able to speak up for yourself. Let’s clear up some of the confusion you may have about health care surrogates and living wills.

What Is a Health Care Surrogate?

A health care surrogate is a legal document that designates a person to be your advocate/surrogate if you are not able to make decisions for yourself. This would be in the case of incapacity, or not having the physical or mental ability to manage your affairs, according to AARP.  The person designated as your health care surrogate can:

  • Talk to doctors,
  • Manage your health care, and
  • Make health care decisions for you.

It’s also possible to have a health care surrogate to advocate for you if you are not incapacitated. This can be helpful if you have a chronic illness and may not have the mental capacity to make health care decisions for yourself or if you are using a variety of medications that affect your cognitive ability.

When choosing a health care surrogate, consider a person who you trust and who will advocate to make solid health decisions for you. Think about that person’s own health and if they would be able to handle your health decisions. Make sure to check that they are willing to handle the task of becoming your health care surrogate.

You don’t need a lawyer to create a health care surrogate for you. In fact, there are free forms online, such as this one from the FloridaHealthFinder.gov website. There must be two witnesses when completing the form, including one person who is not a spouse or blood relative. Read the helpful articles here and here for more information on health care surrogates.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will states the type of medical care you do or don’t want if you can’t make your own health decisions. It can be an oral or written statement. Living wills are used when you are still living, and they are different from a will and testament. Living wills go into effect when you are hurt and not able to state your own wishes for your medical care—for instance, if you are in a coma.

Some of the choices addressed in a living will, according to DaveRamsey.com, include:

  • What do you want to happen if you can’t breathe on your own?
  • What is your opinion on the use of feeding tubes?
  • What types of pain management medications and procedures are you OK using?
  • Do you want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or Do Not Intubate (DNI)?

You’ll want to give some thought to these types of medical preferences when designing your living will.

States may have different names for a living will. Some states use the term advance directive interchangeably with living will, for example. Other terms you may read include personal directive or medical directive. Here is a link to a living will that can be filled out and used in Florida.

Both living wills and health care surrogates are complex topics. This article just provides some basic details. Make sure to do your research and work with trusted loved ones and professionals to help you set up your own documents.

Call Secure Aging to Find Out How We Can Help Seniors With Care Management

At Secure Aging in Bradenton, we transform the weight of the world into a sigh of relief for our senior clients and their concerned family members. The mission of Secure Aging is to protect and preserve our client’s independence and dignity through careful and thoughtful financial and care management. As our clients age, it is their desire to remain independent and age with dignity. Our services protect our clients from talented con artists looking to exploit and deplete the financial resources of our vulnerable seniors. Secure Aging helps families in Manatee County and Sarasota County and in and around the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Myakka City, Palmetto, Parrish, and Sarasota. Call us at 941-761-9338, or visit us online at www.secureaging.com.

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