Health Care Essentials: Isaac's Teaching Moment

No matter where you live, talk of hurricane Issaac makes you prepare for the worst but hope for the best. At DivaCFO, we’re all about being prepared. Many people mistakenly think they don’t need to worry about healthcare documents until later in life, but the following documents are essential for everyone of all ages.  Legal Healthcare expert, Louise Joy, explains why you and everyone in your family should have a HIPAA release, medical Power of Attorney, living will and list of current medications with you at all times.

1.  A general HIPAA release that allows trusted friends and/or family members to speak to your physicians and other health care providers about your medical conditions and get copies of medical records  This is especially helpful when the person has an accident or significant illness and needs additional people to help them fully understand what’s going on.  HIPAA is a federal law that makes your record private and wont let anyone else see them unless they are healthcare providers taking care of you.  The only way non-healthcare providers can see your records is if you sign a HIPAA release that says exactly who can see your records.  There are some other exceptions, but they do not apply for your friends and family members. If you don’t already have one, fill out this universal HIPPA release form.

2.  A Medical Power of Attorney appointing one or more individuals to make medical decisions for you when you can’t.  These situations occur when you are in an unconscious or confused state.  A Medical Power of Attorney allows the person you name to make decisions for you after a physician (or two) determines that you cannot make decisions for yourself.  You will be able to make decisions again after you recover your ability to make decisions. For more information on giving someone a Power of Attorney for your healthcare, check out this helpful guide written by the American Bar Association.

3.  Living wills  to identify what you want done when you have a terminal illness or are in a persistent vegetative state (very little brain capacity).  This document lets you decide if you want lots of aggressive care like feeding tubes and respirators and/or comfort care (pain medications and noninvasive care like creams and mouth care). This document can appoint a person to make these decisions or can refer to the person under your medical power of attorney.

4.  A list of ALL current medications with the name of the medication, the dosage (e.g. 10 milligrams), the frequency taken (e.g. every 4 hours or before breakfast and dinner) and why you take the medication (e.g. high blood pressure) and the name and telephone number of the doctor who prescribed it for you.  The list also needs to include all of your non-prescription medications, vitamins and supplements (e.g. calcium) with amount you take and how often you take it.  The medication list is really important because medications, vitamins and supplements can sometimes cause interactions with drugs that may be given to you in an emergency or when a new doctor is treating you and changing your medications.  Also, under the circumstance that you have to evacuate, you already have this important list ready.  It should be with you at all times (I like to keep mine in my wallet), you should give it to your doctors and nurses at every appointment, and several people you trust should also have it.

For Medical powers of attorney and living wills you need to use the forms or formats that are approved for the state where you sign them.  (So if you are in Texas when you sign the form, make sure you use the forms that are approved in Texas and get them witnessed.  If you are in Louisiana, use the Louisiana forms.)  They will work in other states once they are signed.  Most importantly make sure your friends and family members have copies of the documents.  Keeping them in the cloud is also a good way to make sure you can get to them when you need them.

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