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Advance Care Planning - Choosing a Person to Make Decisions

Choosing a person to make decisions

Part of the Advance Care Planning process involves choosing a person to make decisions for you if you were not able to do so. This person is called your Health Care Agent. One way to get started is to watch the podcast, Choosing a Health Care Agent.

You may want to choose more than one person, in the case that the first person you choose is not able to fill the role.

Think about people you know who share your views and values about life. Think about the people who mean the most to you. You may choose your spouse, an adult child, another family member, a friend or a neighbor.

Trust is key. Who do you feel comfortable discussing your wishes with? And, who do you trust to talk with health care providers about what matters to you and what you would want if you were not able to tell them yourself? You will want to choose a Health Care Agent who will follow your wishes, even if they do not agree with them, who will ensure your wishes are known and who will advocate for you to get the care you want.

Once you have made a choice, be sure to talk with your Health Care Agent about your values, wishes and choices. You may want to ask them to watch the podcast I’ve Been Chosen as a Health Care Agent – Now What?

These short podcasts provide details about choosing a health care agent – a trusted person who would make care decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so – and how to fulfill the role of health care agent if you have been asked to do that for someone.

Choosing A Health Care Agent (5:36)
What makes a good health care agent, and some questions to ask before choosing one.
I’ve Been Chosen as A Health Care Agent - Now What? (4:50)
How to fulfill the role of health care agent, and some decisions you might have to make.


Choosing a person to make decisions

An Advance Directive is a legal form that helps your doctors and loved ones understand your wishes about medical and mental health care and make decisions about your care, if you are not able to make decisions for yourself.

An Advance Directive is the best way to ensure that your future medical care reflects your wishes.

The VA Advance Directive includes sections that allow you to identify the person who would make decisions for you (also called a Health Care Agent) and to specify your treatment preferences. Those sections are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – the part that says who will make decisions for you
  • Living Will – the part that details your wishes about treatments

The VA honors all types of legal Advance Directives, including forms from another state, Department of Defense or VA. The VA form contains more detail than most other forms and allows you the option to attach additional documents. If you do not use an Advance Directive form to choose a health care agent, then your VA health care provider will choose a spokesperson to make decisions for you in this order: legal guardian, spouse, adult child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or close friend. If the health care provider cannot find anyone from this list, VA staff or a court will make decisions for you.

What do I do with my Advance Directive after I complete it?

  • Put the original in a safe and easy-to-access place.
  • Give copies to your health care provider, Health Care Agent and a family member.
  • Put a note on the copies about where the original is kept.

To learn more:

Podcast on Advance Care Planning
What's an Advance Directive, and why should I complete one? (6:35)
Why it's a good idea to fill out an advance directive, and what you might want to think about before you do.