If you are caring for an elderly loved one or believe this is in your near future, it is important to understand that you will need the ability to discuss treatment with health care providers. In order to insure you will have this ability, you need certain legal documents to be in place. Patient confidentiality can prevent family members from having the ability to discuss their loved one’s medical conditions not only with physicians, but also at assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Every state has different requirements for the legal documentation that you need, but in general, you should have a health care surrogate (“HCS”) and a health care directive.
An HCS (also known as a health care power of attorney) document appoints you as the person to make medical decisions if the elderly person is no longer able to do so. The health care proxy allows the appointed agent to access the medical records of the patient. When your loved one executes the HCS document appointing you, it is wise to keep a copy for yourself and provide a copy to your loved one’s primary physician, assisted living facility or nursing home, and the family attorney. It is very important to make sure that within the HCS that your agent has a HIPAA release. HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law – HIPAA protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information and medical care providers are forbidden to share your medical information without it.
A living will or advance health care directive is a document that allows the senior citizen to decide whether he/she wishes to remain on life support under certain conditions. Your loved one can leave instructions for their end of life decisions and relieve you from having to make the very emotional and difficult decisions. Again, it is important to provide a copy of the living will to physicians and other care givers.
If you are interested in learning more about the health care surrogate and living will documents, contact Maura Curran to schedule an appointment today.