When you step into the roll of family caregiver, there are many things looming about that you may not know about. Today I would like to demystify the medical legal areas you should know about, and motivate you to encourage your parents (and you!) to take action on!
First of all, you will want to understand HIPPA. This is the Health Information Portability and Privacy Act. HIPAA authorization from you given to someone you trust, enables health care providers to discuss your condition, give medications, or other health related needs to the person you deem appropriate. There are exceptions to the written HIPAA authorization. Those occur when you are present and let a provider know that you want someone in the room when discussing your healthcare, or in an emergency situation when you are not able to speak for yourself and a loved one is there with you. However, it is always best to err on the side of conservatism and assume that your healthcare provider cannot talk to others about your care without your written authorization.
Power of Attorney for Medical Decision Making
There are several types of Power of Attorney. For the purpose of this article we are focusing on the medical POA. A medical POA is a legal document that you (as the “principal”) create. It gives another person (your agent) the legal authority to act on your behalf. You can give your agent broad, ongoing powers, or limit him/her to specific actions and dates. Your agent may not represent you in court, nor may he or she write, change, or revoke your will.
Health Care Power of Attorney is referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. In California this is combined with a living will to create an Advance Health Care Directive,
Advanced Healthcare Directive
This form should be done for everyone over the age of 18. It enables to you give specific instructions regarding any aspect of your health care. You can use it to request treatment options, withholding, or withdrawal of treatment for your end of life care. Your physician, family or friends are able to act on your behalf if you are not capable making sure that your wishes are carried out.
An Advanced Healthcare Directive done early, takes the burden off of your family. After discussing it with them and filling out the form completely, they can ensure the quality of life that is important to you particularly during a crisis in which there is a great deal of stress and emotional turmoil. My uncle became sick to the point that dialysis 3 days a week is what was keeping him functioning. In between appointments, he often forgot what he would tell his adult children or me. The lack of oxygen was causing him issues with memory. You want decisions to be made while your family member feels capable to make them.
POLST – Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment
POLST aims to give seriously ill patients more control over their care. It empowers patients to make more informed choices and clearly communicate and honor their wishes. This form is helpful particularly if you have a chronic disease. Working with your doctor to understand how the disease progresses ensures that you are able to make informed choices for your care later on.
POLST is a standardized medical order form (signed by a physician) that indicates the specific types of life-sustaining treatment a seriously ill patient does or does not want.These orders are included in the medical charts as the person moves through the healthcare system. It is intended to work with an existing advanced directive and not replace it. You can find the California POLST form online at http://www.capolst.org/