Guidelines for choosing your decision-maker

This is a very important role and something you should consider carefully.

It is important that the person you choose: 

  • meets the legal criteria in your state for acting as agent or proxy or representative
  • would be willing to speak on your behalf
  • would be able to act on your wishes and separate his/her own feelings from yours
  • lives close by or could travel to be at your side if needed
  • knows you well and understands what’s important to you
  • is someone you trust with your life
  • will talk with you now about sensitive issues and will listen to your wishes
  • will likely be available long into the future
  • would be able to handle conflicting opinions between family members, friends, and medical personnel
  • can be a strong advocate for you in the face of an unresponsive doctor or institution.

Supporting and empowering your substitute decision-maker

You can do a lot to help your substitute decision-maker perform their role confidently and effectively.

Make sure they are doing it willingly.

Ensure they understand what the role entails.

Discuss your views about your future care.

Make sure they have a reasonable understanding of your health conditions, and health choices that may need to be made in the future.

Ensure they are clear on the issues they need to address when advocating on your behalf.

Make sure they have copies of any relevant documents related to your wishes.

Ensure they know how to step in as a substitute decision-maker.

Think about other people in your life who may expect to have a say in your care, explain to them who you have appointed and why, and ask these people to support the person you have appointed if you think this may be an issue.

Worksheet 1.3: who will be my spokesperson on healthcare issue?

Complete the worksheet by downloading a blank copy and filling it in.

Choosing your substitute decision maker.

Download a brochure to guide you in choosing your substitute decision maker.


Step 4: Express your health and care wishes