The info you need depends on how large a role you will have as that person's proxy, whether you're an immediate relative, and how much control is granted to you. Asking the following questions will help you determine where you stand and will also give you specific ideas on what you'll need to talk over with other family members, the person's doctor, hospital social workers, and an attorney.
- What's the person's diagnosis and prognosis?
- How certain is the answer to the above question? What are the odds of a partial or full recovery? Because predictions are often wrong, you don't want family members to start vying for possessions prematurely.
- Has the person prepared and signed advance directives? (If the person has not, and he or she is able to, for Pete's sake try to get it done! This could save you tons of stress and hassle.)
- Has the person spoken with any close friends or relatives about what his or her wishes would be in the event of an incapacitating injury? Hopefully you'll be the one they spoke to, but if not, better to find this out now rather than later.
- Does the hospital have a social worker, ethics committee, or other staff members to help you consider the available options for care?
- What kinds of financial assets does the person have? No, you're not snooping (well, that shouldn't be your motivation); you need to know this in case you have to answer questions about what type of care they can afford and their eligibility for programs like Medicaid.
- Does the person have medical, long-term care, or Medicare insurance that will cover the cost of hospital or long-term illness care? It's always a happy occasion when they do. (If you don't, you can read the preceding sentence as a recommendation to look into long-term care insurance and other provisions, so you'll cause a happy occasion if that question comes up in your case one day.)
Find out more about this book:YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment