Being a family caregiver takes a lot of time and energy , so when families hear about making sure their elderly parents’ legal affairs are in order, it’s often something that gets overlooked in the day to day tasks of care-giving. There are, however, important legal documents that seniors and their caregivers (whether family caregivers or professional caregivers) should have and refer to when making medical decisions. Many people don’t think about these types of medical decisions until an emergency happens and decisions need to be made quickly. Not having a plan in place could mean that seniors’ wishes about medical care aren’t known or honored, or even worse, having their children have to go to court for the right to make their parents’ wishes followed.
It is important for adult children to talk with their elderly parents about these issues while life is relatively calm. The three documents legal experts recommend are:
- HIPAA Authorization. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) keeps personal records private. An authorization form is required for children to be able to receive medical information abou
t their elderly parents. The doctor’s office will have this form to fill out.
- Health-Care Proxy or a medical power of attorney, this legal document allows an elderly person to give some he or she trusts the power to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to. Only one person can be named as a Health-Care Proxy at a time, however, another person can be designated at the time of signing to take over in case the first person is unable to serve.
- Advance Health Care Directive or a living will allows individuals to choose their own end-of-life care decisions before a crisis occurs. When a person has an Advance Health Care Directive, loved ones and caregivers don’t have to try to guess what the person would have wanted. A living will should include:
- If the person wants to be resuscitated if he or she stops breathing,
- whether artificial means should be used to support life, and
- if a feeding tube should be inserted
Once a health care emergency strikes it will be too late to get these documents in order so the time to do something about it is now. Consulting with a lawyer who specializes in elder law is a good idea, but you can also download your state’s advance directives with directions on how to complete them at caringinfo.org. Advance directives for Utah can be found here.