7 Critical Traits for Your Healthcare Agent | Choose Wisely!

7 Critical Traits for Your Healthcare Agent

Lessons in choosing your healthcare agent wisely.

When my older son was just six months old, we experienced a terrifying morning. I remember going downstairs to the kitchen to start breakfast. I could smell smoke that seemed to be coming from the garage. When I opened the door going into the garage, smoke billowed into the house. I screamed to my husband, frantically pulled my son from his crib, grabbed a phone and headed out to the street in my bathrobe and slippers. I dialed 911. It was a cold March morning in Minnesota. I walked up the street to a neighbor’s house who graciously took my son from my arms and offered me her coat. I returned to my house to talk with the firemen.

Putting out a fire

Photo Courtesy: Thinkstock / Robertiez

Just a few days earlier, we had hired a handyman to finish our basement. After staining the woodwork, he’d left a pile of rags in the garage. Spontaneous combustion led to small fire. The firemen told us that within another hour, the garage would have been engulfed, and the house would have quickly followed.

Clearly, we had made a poor decision in choosing our handyman. We didn’t sufficiently evaluate his experience. The consequences could have been tragic.

Last week’s video post introduced four principles to apply when selecting your healthcare agent. Unfortunately, many people choose their healthcare agent without sufficient consideration. Selecting your healthcare agent and alternates is perhaps the most important decision of your entire healthcare directive. Choosing wisely requires thoughtful reflection.

The following 7 traits are the hallmarks of a wisely chosen healthcare agent. You will select an effective healthcare agent when you choose someone who will:

  1. Advocate strongly for your preferences, even if it requires setting aside their own wishes or beliefs.
  2. Hold firm to your healthcare preferences and not be swayed by well-meaning loved ones who earnestly believe a different treatment decision would serve you best.
  3. Assertively, even aggressively, engage the medical team in providing the best possible care for you, as you’ve defined it.
  4. Passionately assert your need for comfort care, since some hospitals are not staffed with palliative care specialists.
  5. Be trusted by your extended family. Family dynamics can be tricky in a crisis. Selecting a trustworthy person who can navigate through difficult emotions will be important for you and your loved ones.
  6. Be available. An agent who lives close by is optimal. Naming a secondary agent is important in case your primary agent cannot be reached.
  7. Take time to learn the medical details of your situation, and seek medical advice—especially a second opinion—when it is warranted.

Finally, whomever you choose, first ask his or her permission to be named as your healthcare agent. Discuss your preferences openly and allow for questions. Your interests will best be served by a skilled and willing agent who is equipped by knowing your preferences for end-of-life care.

How have you struggled with your selection for your healthcare agents?

QUESTION: If you or a loved one have selected your Healthcare Agent, would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.



Have you chosen your healthcare agents? Do you feel confident that your agents are willing and ready to advocate for your wishes?

This FREE guide will help you to choose, invite and prepare your healthcare agents for future medical decisions that might be required. Interested?

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