For many people, the thought of being sick enough that someone else would have to make medical decisions for them isn't exactly comforting. And yet, the peace of mind that comes from choosing who will make those decisions does bring some comfort.
Perhaps you or your loved one have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia, and you're concerned about the future. Or, maybe you're pretty healthy but you've been hearing about others who've filled in paperwork designating a patient advocate- someone who agrees to make decisions in their best interest if the time ever came when they couldn't express their wishes.
A document that designates a durable power of attorney for healthcare, also called a patient advocate or a healthcare proxie, can ensure that a specific person of your choosing can make decisions for you. Their ability to make those decisions, however, does not begin until and unless you're unable to participate in medical decisions. Until then, nothing changes.
Whether you have Alzheimer's or not, choosing someone and completing the paperwork for a medical durable power of attorney is a wise choice to ensure that any decisions that are made are in your best interest.
On that note, be sure to communicate your wishes to the person you choose, so that they don't have to guess. You can complete a living will which clearly indicates your philosophy on medical care and your life, and how aggressive you want the treatment you receive to be.
Suggested Reading on Power of Attorney and Living Will Documents