I was called to the oncology unit to talk with Helen, a patient with cancer, about a power of attorney for healthcare. I understood Helen had several siblings, with one whom she was particularly close. Helen was alone in her room when we met, and voiced her sister Mary would be who she would chose to be her DPOA-H. Helen talked about her hopes for some time yet, and her understanding that all treatments offered were just to “buy me some time”, without a hope of cure. Helen tired quickly as we talked, and I offered to return the next day to confirm her wishes and sign her document.
When I returned the next day, a woman was at her bedside. I introduced myself, and the woman at the bedside introduced herself as the patient’s sister, Susan. I asked Helen’s permission to provide a brief recap of yesterday’s conversation, to save her energy for additional conversation. When I relayed that Helen had chosen Mary to be her DPOA-H, the sister at the bedside, Susan, seemed taken aback and surprised. Helen gently took Susan’s hand and said to her, “when my time comes, I need you right here, holding my hand and singing me home. Mary can be out there, directing things, slaying dragons. I need you right here.”
I often hear families feeling uncomfortable about choosing one person over another for the role of DPOA-H. What if the others are offended or mad? This is one example of how each of us has gifts and talents, and fully utilizing and honoring those gifts. There isn’t one role more “important” than another. Each role requires different gifts, and that role should be given to the one who can best carry out those duties, fully celebrating the gifts of each member of a family.