Medical Documents Every Person Needs to Prepare
The medical process can be a maze of paperwork and regulations, and when you’re dealing with an emergency, it can be especially frustrating to navigate. Often in serious situations, the responsibility of sorting through the medical paperwork process falls to your family, which can put an undue burden upon those already worried about your wellbeing. Therefore, you should be prepared to have all of the necessary documents and arrangements already in place to deal with any medical emergency that may arise.
For the average person, it’s difficult to know where to begin preparing for your medical care, which is why we’re offering guidance on what you might need, and what it can do for you.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
You know what sort of care and treatment you want in case of serious injury or illness, but in the case of incapacitation, you’re not able to communicate those thoughts to your doctors. In those instances, you need someone who will act on your behalf with your doctors and make decisions on your healthcare according to your wishes. It’s important to note that this is only for medical decisions, not financial matters.
A healthcare power of attorney is a document that designates someone as your agent should you be uncommunicative or otherwise incapable of making sound decisions for yourself. It’s something that needs to be created ahead of time when you are still of sound mind to affirm such decisions. In a healthcare power of attorney, you can grant the power immediately or only upon incapacity. Once it does activate, the named person is able to dictate what treatment you do or don’t receive – or, in the case of critical injuries, whether care is given at all. Given the power that your health agent or attorney-in-fact has, it’s crucial to choose someone that you trust. You can normally appoint an alternate in case they are unable to act.
There are no special requirements for someone to be the designated agent or attorney-in-fact for your healthcare power of attorney, so you can pick the person you feel best suited to the task. You do want to ensure that your chosen agent or attorney-in-fact understands your wishes and is willing to follow them and is able to make difficult decisions even in the face of pressure from your family or others.
Durable Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney can come with expiration dates; a typical healthcare power of attorney applies only for the period you’re incapacitated, and limited power of attorney is only for the period and purpose specified in the document.
A durable power of attorney for finances is intended to remain effective and valid if you become incapacitated. It can help you plan for a time when you’re not able to handle any of your personal and business affairs. A durable power of attorney doesn’t become void once you’re no longer responsive or of sound mind; it allows your designated agent or attorney-in-fact to take care of your finances, business and legal needs in your stead. Without a durable power of attorney for finances, a court may have to appoint a conservator or guardian to manage those things, and that might not be someone you would have chosen yourself. Most importantly, if there are bills to pay and family to take care of, you want to ensure that there is someone who can legally do so while you are unable.
As with your healthcare power of attorney, you want to appoint someone that you can trust to act in your best interest and who won’t bow to any pressure from family or others who want to overturn your wishes. A durable power of attorney can include both healthcare and finances in the same document.
Advanced Directive or Living Will
An Advance Directive or Living Will is a document that spells out your wishes for your care in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make any such decisions yourself. It can address life-sustaining treatment and other end-of-life care decisions. It differs from what we colloquially call a Will — the Last Will and Testament. While the Last Will and Testament deals with the disposition of your estate and assets upon your death, a Living Will or advance directive, as the name suggests, applies while you’re still living.
Like having a healthcare power of attorney, a Living Will dictates your wishes regarding medical treatment in a number of different situations. It should go hand-in-hand with your designated agent or attorney-in-fact for the healthcare power of attorney. You can also designate a healthcare proxy or agent in your Living Will and should be able to execute your wishes.
It might be tempting to trust such decisions to your family, assuming that they would honor your wishes, but it may be next to impossible to make the toughest decisions where loved ones are concerned, and could create an intended burden on your family. Even if you’re in good health, you should sit down with an attorney to craft a Living Will.
HIPAA Release Form
Medical privacy is something that doctors and hospitals take very seriously, and it’s not something that can be skirted around because of an emergency or because your family desperately wants information on your medical history. And like a healthcare l power of attorney, it’s too late if you are already not able to communicate your wishes.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 allows you to share your personal medical information with a select person or group of people provided that you have a release form authorizing them to have access to that information. It’s particularly important should you need to share your medical information with a doctor or hospital or even someone outside the medical profession, like an attorney.
With a completed HIPAA release form, you can control what information is being shared, and who it’s being shared with; you don’t have to worry that you’re giving a blanket disclosure. By ensuring that you have one filled out with access for the necessary individuals, you can make sure that everyone gets the information they need.
You have a right to determine what kind of care you receive and, in the event that treatment fails, the right to decline any further care.
With a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) request, you can make it known that should your heart or breathing stop, you don’t want doctors to intervene by performing CPR or other life-saving actions. In some states, Physician Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment (POLST) are utilized.
It’s important to discuss these issues and your wishes with your doctors and your family; both are predisposed to keep you alive by any means, out of professional duty and love, respectively. So if it’s your choice to let go at some point, make sure everyone is informed with the correct documents.
It’s important, now more than ever, to be prepared for a potentially serious medical emergency or upon your passing. And while we might think immediately about our own fate, it’s worth stopping to consider what we’re asking of our family if we haven’t prepared for every eventuality of our care. It is important to have your affairs in order. LegalShield Members can talk with an attorney to create a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Finances, and Living Will or any other legal documents you might need in an emergency as part of the personal plan. Plans start at just $29.95 a month.
LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at legalshield.com for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.