Q: Who should I appoint as my health care surrogate if I don’t have children?

A: Thank you for asking such a great question! It is heard frequently by care managers and elder care attorneys. There are several things to consider when preparing your advance directives –and specifically your health care surrogacy documents.

Any competent adult 18 years or older can be your health care surrogate. Attorney Roger Klaffka, of Estate Planning and Elder Law Center of Brevard, reminds us, “When completing the Designation of Health Care Surrogate form, keep in mind you are providing written documentation that designates your surrogate to make health care decisions and allows them to receive health information on your behalf.  It is important to choose a primary and an alternate person, in the event the primary person is unable or unwilling to act.”

When you appoint someone as your health care surrogate (HCS), be sure to make them aware of your wishes. Klaffka notes, “In choosing your primary and alternate surrogate, look for someone who can meet the responsibilities under Florida statute. It requires that your surrogate make only health care decisions which they believe you would have made under the circumstances if you were capable of making such decisions. However, if your surrogate is uninformed of your desires, then they may consider your best interest in deciding the proper health care.”

When choosing your health care surrogate, also consider:

  • Location– It is often easier for a health care surrogate to advocate for you when they are physically near, as opposed to doing so from a distance. Will your HCS be readily available in an emergency situation?
  • Stability and trustworthiness– Your HCS should be able to handle the demands of the role. Have you witnessed this person in an “urgent” situation before?  Were they able to remain level headed or did they crumble? Can they carry out your wishes, putting aside their own beliefs or values?
  • Physical and Mental ability – Is the person you are considering for this role physically and mentally able to handle the responsibility? Are they dealing with medical issues that may prevent them from being available?
  • Willingness – Importantly, discuss your intentions with your HCS choice and confirm they are willing to assume the role.

If you are struggling to find the right person for this vital role, there are other options– including the appointment of a professional care provider/agency. For more information about choosing a health care surrogate, please reach out to one of the Aging Life Care Professionals at One Senior Place.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.