If you’re a caregiver, you spend a lot of time navigating the world on behalf of someone else, whether it’s a parent, a relative, or someone you love. While helping them live an independent, healthy life can be rewarding, dealing with medical issues can be frustrating when you don’t have the right to participate in discussions, or make emergency decisions. Working with your loved one to create and sign these four documents will give you peace of mind and give them continued control of their healthcare. Here’s what you need to put in your caregiver portfolio as soon as possible:
- HIPAA Authorization: The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 requires that all patient information be kept private, even from family members. Even in an urgent situation, your loved one’s doctors can’t discuss the details of diagnosis or treatment with you unless you have a signed HIPAA Authorization. Download a blank HIPAA Authorization form here.
Health Care Proxy: this document is also called a medical power of attorney, and it differs from a traditional power of attorney in that it only applies to medical decisions. There are a few conditions for using a Health Care Proxy:
- Your loved one must prepare and sign this document while still mentally competent
- Only one person can be named a Health Care Proxy, so family caregivers would have to designate one sibling to be the Proxy.
- An alternate person can be named in the form to step in if the primary Proxy is unable to serve
- The Health Care Proxy does not have to be a family member, just an adult aged 18 or older
- The Health Care Proxy can be different from the person who holds Power of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy documents can vary from state to state, so if your loved one travels frequently, you will need a document that is valid under each state’s laws.
- The proxy document only takes effect if it’s determined that your loved one is unable to make decisions independently, in writing
You can download a Health Care Proxy form prepared by the American Bar Association that is valid in most states.
- Advance Care Directive: this document is also known as a living will. Decisions about life support, feeding tubes, and resuscitation, sometimes called extreme methods, are very personal, and your loved one needs to make them before a medical crisis occurs. A living will can also stipulate other treatments that your loved one doesn’t want performed. You can download an Advance Care Directive prepared by the California Attorney General’s office.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): while an Advanced Care Directive covers extreme measures like life support and intubation, it is a good idea to also keep a DNR form visible and available at home as well. If EMTs or paramedics are called to your loved one’s house, they are not going to take the time during an emergency to review a living will. A DNR form is short and to the point, and members of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority are trained to recognize and observe one. You can find more information about Do Not Resuscitate orders, and download forms from the EMSA website.
Caring for a loved one isn’t an easy job, but every job is easier to do well with the right tools. Setting up a medical document portfolio will help you take care of your loved one, and to feel more comfortable when a home care companion is offering respite care.