Take Charge Toolkit

Choose your health care agent – someone you’d want to make decisions about your care if you are unable.

Your agent is the person who will help ensure that your wishes for medical care will be respected if you become unable to speak for yourself. Your health care agent will have legal authority to make health decisions for you.

If you have not selected a health care agent and you become unable to communicate your wishes, your friends and family may disagree about the medical care you should receive – and decisions about your care may be made by doctors, hospital administrators, or judges.

Choosing a health care agent is an important decision.

Your agent should be someone you trust. Most people choose a spouse, partner, relative, or close friend as their agent. Even if your family is involved in helping you make medical treatment decisions, it is still important to choose one person to be your health care agent.

Think about who knows you well and what is important to you. Consider who can honor your wishes, even if their own wishes might be different.

Consider people who will be able to act on your behalf in stressful situations.

Think about people who can ask questions of medical professionals and others to get the information they need to make good decisions.

California law states that your agent cannot be your current health care provider or a staff member in your care facility.

Once you have decided who you would like to serve as your agent, ask them if they are willing to take on this responsibility. It’s a good idea to also select a backup, or secondary, agent in case your first choice is not available when you need them.

Talk to your agent about your values and your preferences for medical treatment. Even if you are close, don’t assume that he or she knows what you would want. While it’s impossible to discuss every possible situation, if your health care agent knows what is important to you, he or she will be equipped to make the kinds of decisions that you would make for yourself. Share your answers to the questions in Step 1.

Step 4 is to put all of this in writing. Or, return to Step 2 – talk to others who need to know.