While my father was in the hospital, I found out some very important information about the health care system. Foolishly, I thought that our P.O.A. would enable me to make decisions for, and with, my father about his health care, but I was wrong.
The P.O.A. doesn’t mean a thing in a hospital setting, unless they are trying to find out who pays the bills! Unfortunately, we found this out the hard way…
During the admittance stage, the nurses never batted an eye while I rattled off all of my father’s vital information, including why he was there, what insurance he carried, and what medicines he took and the dosages. So, I never suspected that they were only leaning on me to help facilitate the admittance stage, and once he was admitted, I would no longer be able to speak for him.
This was incredibly upsetting. My father had to be administered heavy-duty narcotics, and could not speak for himself for a few days. During this time, I was advised by a very empathetic nurse that because we didn’t have a Health Care Proxy for my father, the doctors didn’t need to listen to us. And that as soon as he was coherent again, we needed to have him sign a Health Care Proxy Form, and name us as his advocates.
Luckily for us, the doctors and nurses did listen to us, but made it very clear that if my father “coded”, they would have to follow hospital protocol (i.e. resuscitation), regardless of what my father’s wishes may have been. We were also advised to have my father add our names to a HIPPA Privacy Authorization Form. This way, the doctors and nurses could legally speak to us about his medical care.
We asked the nurse on duty if she could provide us with both the Health Care Proxy Form and a HIPPA Privacy Authorization Form. Just so you know the hospitals keep these forms at the nursing stations, so just ask for them!
When my father was coherent again, he promptly signed both of the forms, and listed my siblings and I as persons to whom medical information could be released to. Now, we all have our own copies of each document, so that we can access them readily in an emergency.
Just so you know you do not need to pay for either of these documents. They can be obtained from your Primary Care Physician, the hospital staff upon admittance, or online. Once you have the forms, fill them out completely and have them signed by witnesses. Then give copies to everyone mentioned in these documents so that they can be accessed quickly if need be.
In regards to the Health Care Proxy Form, try to name at least two health care proxies, in case one of them is unable to be reached in an emergency. Also, take some time to think about what kind of care you would like to receive and include any health care wishes/limitations on the form. This way, family members aren’t stricken at having to make these decisions for you.
I wasn’t all that successful in finding a perfect HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form, but The Missouri Bar had a pretty good one. However, they only had room for one name to be listed, so I modified it a bit for my own use.
Feel free to use my modified version if you want to list multiple persons: Download HIPAA Authorization.
So, my sixth piece of advice is: If you have a loved one in your life, it is imperative that you have them fill out a Health Care Proxy Form and a HIPPA Privacy Authorization Form, so that you can take care of them in an emergency.