Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 21, 2012

Clinic details health care proxies

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Do you know who will make health care decisions for you if you can’t?

Most don’t, which is why Niagara Hospice is hosting an advance care planning clinic Thursday to help educate people on the importance of choosing a proxy.

A health care proxy is a person who is authorized to act on behalf of someone if they can’t do it themselves. The proxy plays an important role in ensuring people’s wishes are followed.

Patricia M. Degan, director of marketing and public relations for The Hospice and Palliative Care Group in Niagara County, said that a proxy isn’t something that’s limited to the elderly.

“Some people think it’s something you only need when you are older in age,” she said. “But it’s a good idea if you’re over 18 to have one. You could have a tragic accident and can’t make decisions for yourself.”

The HomeCare Partners, Niagara Hospice, Liberty Home Care and Niagara Hospice Alliance will hold an hour-long clinic at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Niagara Hospice Administrative Building, 4675 Sunset Drive, Lockport.

The Advance Care Planning program will help participants ensure their health care wishes are followed.

Degan said the group generally holds these events twice a year: in October for National Health Care Proxy Awareness Month and in April for National Health Care Decisions Day.

According to Degan, it’s important to start proxy conversations with family so that relatives understand a person’s end-of-life health care wishes. 

“Do you want to be hooked up to tubes, oxygen and artificial nutrition and hydration?” Degan asked as examples. “Or do you want conditions set for if there’s no hope for recovery and you don’t want that kind of treatment?”

Cheryl Ferguson, a medical social worker for Niagara Hospice, will explain health care proxies, living wills, do not resuscitate orders and medical orders for life sustaining treatment.

Degan said Ferguson is “well versed” with the ins and outs of designating a health care proxy.

“By learning more about advance directives, our community can have thoughtful conversations about their health care decisions and complete reliable advance directives to make their wishes known,” Ferguson said. “Fewer families and health care providers will have to struggle with making difficult health care decisions in the absence of guidance from the patient.”

Health care providers and facilities will be better equipped to address advance health care planning issues before a crisis and be better able to honor patient wishes when the time comes to do so, Ferguson added.

Degan said health care proxies have become more popular in recent years as people have become more aware of the service.

“It’s really a gift that you can give your family so that they don’t have to make those difficult decisions,” Degan said. “They know what you talked to them about and you’re able to make those decisions yourself. Your family is speaking for you.”

The program is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required by leaving a message at 280-0742 by Wednesday. Free forms and refreshments will be available.

For more information visit the Events page at NiagaraHospice.org or call Niagara Hospice at