While this period of quarantine is the perfect opportunity to clean out your attic, catch up on your Netflix queue, or get in shape, this is also the time to make sure you have the appropriate legal documents in place in the event that you are not able to make or communicate your health care decisions. These documents include a Health Care Proxy and HIPAA Authorization and many choose to also execute a Living Will
Health Care Proxy: A Health Care Proxy is the document by which you appoint a health care agent – the person who will make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. If you already have executed a Health Care Proxy, take a moment to locate it, ensure that the agent you named is still appropriate, and distribute copies (if you haven’t already) to your agent, your primary care doctor and perhaps your family members. Most of us usually have our cell phones close by so it’s a good idea to scan a copy of your health care proxy and save it on your phone.
We also recommend that you affix a copy of your Health Care Proxy, emergency contact information and health insurance information to the side of your refrigerator. EMTs are trained to look for emergency information there.
HIPAA Authorization: It is also important to execute a HIPAA Authorization. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to help ensure the privacy of your medical records. A HIPAA Authorization is a document that authorizes your health care agent and any family members or friends you list to talk to your medical professionals and view your medical records. Remember that once your teenager reaches age 18, they will need to execute a HIPAA Authorization authorizing you to speak with their doctors and view their medical records. The mere fact that you are mom/dad/guardian is not sufficient.
Living Will: Additionally, you may wish to sign a Living Will. While Living Wills are not legally binding in Massachusetts, they provide guidance to your doctors and health care agent about your wishes regarding end of life care in the event that you have a terminal condition or are in a persistent vegetative state.
Other practical suggestions during this time of Coronavirus:
If you have a family member sick at home and at risk of being hospitalized it’s a good idea to have an emergency bag packed, since visitors are not being allowed in to the hospital. Things to include in the bag: *
- Written UPDATED accurate list of medications: name, dose, frequency.
- Cell phone charger!
- List of emergency contacts and phone numbers on paper!
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and hair brush.
- Three pairs of underwear.
- Full name, phone number, office address of Primary Care Doctor.
- Book, magazine or something to read.
- Copy of legal paperwork such as Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Authorization and Living Will.
- If patient has a pacemaker or defibrillator, a copy of the pocket information card that states the brand, model number, MRI compatibility.
- If the patient has asthma or COPD, bring the inhalers. Hospitals are running out.
- Extra batteries for hearing aid or other medical devices.
These are uncertain times right now, but ensuring that your health care documents are up to date can provide some peace of mind for you and your loved ones. If you wish to create or update your health care proxy, please contact our office. We are working remotely but are able to speak with you over the phone or via Zoom and will meet you in the office parking lot to execute your documents. One silver lining in all of this – we are waiving the $400 fee we customarily charge our clients for initial estate planning meetings if you make an appointment in the month of April.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. We are happy to speak with you and to do what we can to ease your mind during this difficult time.
*With thanks and credit to Peter T. Clark Esquire of Mansfield, Massachusetts for compiling and sharing this great list!
Attorney Julia Abbott is partner with the Dedham firm of Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC which focuses on advising its clients in the areas of estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. For more information visit www.ssbllc.com or call 781/461-1020.
© 2020 Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC