The moment you find yourself in an emergency room needing to make a medical decision for a loved one is not the time to realize you don’t have a health care proxy.
Work is often said to be a four letter word – the vulgar kind that is. Paperwork is worse. The idea of filling out forms, answering questionnaires, making what-if decisions, and writing checks is enough to make anyone say they’ll handle it later. But when later comes, and you find yourself needing to make an on-the-spot care decision for a loved one, you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare for a healthcare emergency.
It’s common and often overwhelming to realize that medical care is intertwined with both legal and financial issues. However, a serious illness, accident, rehab stay, or long term care placement is more than making the best medical decisions. Without proper legal authority, you may not have the ability to make any decision.
The Commission on Law and Aging of the American Bar Association (ABA) provides valuable free information concerning many elder law issues. Laws vary from state-to-state so be sure to check with your attorney.
Healthcare Power of Attorney (health care proxy)
This legal document gives the person (agent) of your choice the authority to make all medical decisions for you in the event you are unable. The ABA advises that you carefully select your agent, discuss your medical concerns and wishes, and make sure that your agent understands his or her responsibilities.
Durable Power of Attorney
This legal document gives the person (agent) of your choice to make all financial decisions for you in the event you are unable. This document is essential if financial decisions need to be made for your care or if financial obligations need to be managed while you are receiving care or unable.
Living Will (advanced directive or health care directive)
This document is not the same as a will where you designate who inherits the contents of your estate. This document tells people what you want for your end-of-life care. Without the advanced directive, doctors and caregivers are left guessing and may act in a way that you did not want. Living wills are often combined with a healthcare power of attorney.
Wills and Trusts
The importance of these legal documents is too large for the bounds of this discussion. However, wills and trusts can help preserve your wealth, avoid inheritance tax issues, and settle issues of your estate. You must discuss your specific needs with a qualified attorney.
As people age and have new or expanding health care needs, it’s essential that everyone involved in a love one’s care has all of the medical information needed before they need it.
Medical History and List of Medications
It’s common to have a variety of doctors to treat many concerns. For instance an endocrinologist for diabetes, a cardiologist for heart concerns. Electronic records help doctors share information about medications and treatments but the system is not fool proof. Make a list of all medications and dosages as well as past and current treatments. Take photos on a smart phone of all pill bottles to record the dosage as well as the prescribing doctor.
Healthcare Power of Attorney (health care proxy)
See discussion above under legal needs.
Have copies of your health insurance card or make a photocopy and make sure that anyone responsible for care has a copy easily at hand. It is easy to misplace this information or not know where it is in case of an emergency.
Do Not Resuscitate Documents (DNRs)/Do Not Treat
This is a legal document written in the hospital. It alerts medical staff that in the event of cardiac arrest they are not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intubation, or any advanced cardiac measures. Additionally, a Do Not Treat document will expand on other life saving measures such as feeding tubes and medications.
The financial concerns of caring for a loved one are often the most stressful. As discussed above, a durable power of attorney can give an agent the authority he or she needs to make large financial decisions such as hiring an in home care giver or even small but essential decisions such as paying a mortgage or credit card.
Bank accounts including credit cards, investments
Have a list of all accounts and where banks are located. Have contact information for brokers. Check to see if there are any safe deposit boxes.
Debt – Car loans, mortgage, rent
Keep an accounting of all outstanding debt. Set up automating pay if accounts allow. Have a list of passwords and usernames to access these accounts if necessary.
Keep copies of all insurance cards, policies, payments, and paperwork. Make sure that something as essential as a long term care policy is kept current and paid in full.
The information and advice provided in this article is not to substitute for any legal, medical, or financial advice. Each person’s situation is different and laws vary from state to state. But with some advanced planning, the most emotionally trying emergencies and life altering decisions can be more about the care that is best not the paperwork needed to make the decision.
People Come First
Our highly trained and qualified caregivers in combination with our senior management team, ensures that each one of our clients is matched up with a caregiver that your family trusts to take care of their loved one. If your loved one only needs a little help at home, or if they suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia requiring someone be with them twenty-four hours a day—Comfort Home Care is prepared and committed to caring for the ones you love.