3 Legal Documents to Simplify Senior Healthcare

Kolleen Schocke |

For most of our lives, decisions about our health and medical treatments are personal choices, but as you get older there may be medical circumstances that may require you to turn to a loved one to make decisions for you. If you become mentally or physically unable to communicate your healthcare preferences, there are 3 critical documents that will allow you to legally set up procedures to be followed to manage your care: a HIPAA Authorization Form, a Medical Power of Attorney, and an Advanced Health Care Directive.

The first, a HIPAA Authorization Form addresses the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) restrictions that prevent your healthcare provider from legally disclosing information about your health. This document formally gives permission to your doctor to share information about your medical status to approved family members. Most doctors have this form in their office and only takes a few moments to complete. By completing this document your loved one can stay informed about your health and treatments but does not allow them to make any decisions about your care.

If you would like to grant more access to your medical care and allow someone to make decisions on your behalf, you can utilize a medical Power of Attorney (POA). This legal document is different from a HIPAA authorization in that it allows you to legally appoint an “agent” (usually a relative or close friend) to make choices for your medical care with your doctor if you can no longer do so. This trusted person can make decisions about for your personal care management, hiring a personal care assistant, deciding on medical treatment, and making overall health decisions. It’s important to select only one person to act as a medical POA; selecting more than one person can lead to disagreements over medical treatments or decisions which the document does not have the power to resolve. Additionally, you should review this periodically to make sure your appointed agent is still the person you’d like to make decisions for you.

While a medical POA allows for choices to be made on your behalf during your lifetime, you can plan for end-of-life medical treatments and processes with an Advanced Health Directive. This document can be part of a living will where you can detail your wishes when it comes to critical care, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, and even funeral arrangements. This can help take the emotional burden off your family and allow you to communicate your wishes about how you would like your care to be handled.

It can be difficult to consider the circumstances that would require this sort of medical planning, but our team is here to help. Reach out to us if you’d like to know more about any of the documents listed in this post or have questions about elder care planning.

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