It’s been four years since I first wrote about the importance of healthcare authorizations as I prepped to get my daughter off to college. Since then, my son turned 18 and I’ve served as my dad’s chief healthcare advocate for over 8 hospitalizations in 2021.
Keep reading for the full story, but I’m not going to bury the lead.
Anyone over the age of 18 who may need your advocacy MUST authorize this in writing.
Once you have it, make sure it’s scanned, in the cloud, and accessible. Be ready to present these documents at any point in time, like flashing a badge. Especially in a complex situation with multiple providers, don’t expect over-taxed healthcare professionals to go digging “in the system”... Ask me how I know.
I was wrapping up important details like finalizing the Bed Bath & Beyond order pickup in NYC and hosting graduation parties (remember those?😉). The finish line was near.
And then it wasn’t.
A peer (also up to her eyeballs in college prep) relayed a parental nightmare about a friend’s son who was hospitalized out-of-state during college. The parents couldn’t get any information for several days about his condition because he was 18. She asked if I’d had my daughter sign releases in case of an emergency at school. Um, no. That hadn’t made it on the list.
When she turned 18 a few months prior, my attention was on the “Adult” All-Access Pass she now had to vote, get her ears double pierced without mom present, purchase a lottery ticket, and skydive. She signed away her rights (pictured above and posted with permission) and jumped out of a plane on her actual birthday. I guess that had me a little distracted.
Fast forward to 2021 when my son turned 18. He and my husband ended up in Las Vegas at the Conor McGregor fight. During a pandemic. What could go wrong? But I digress. 🙄
We’re living in chaotic times. Navigating how to parent young adults and how to assist our aging parents is no easy task. While there are many things out of our control, taking action today will put you in a position to help loved ones when needed.
Individuals wanting access to information on an adult child’s (or parents') health or finances need permission in writing. That’s true about accessing college grades, as well.
Despite having spent my entire career in Employee Benefits and Risk Management, the federal privacy law (HIPAA) that bars parents from getting information about their children when they reach their 18th birthday hadn't been on my radar. This is true even if they're on your insurance, you’re paying college tuition or they’re living at home as so many young adults are today.
While this surfaced for us during the college process, this is a conversation all parents or guardians should be having with their 18-year-olds and other adult family members.
It’s appropriate that young adults have privacy, but the ramifications of “complete privacy” such as "on your own in the Emergency Room or ICU in a pandemic" should be made clear. There are ways to place limits around the circumstances under which information is shared. For example, someone may opt for boundaries around mental or sexual health issues.
Once you start asking around you’ll hear horror stories of parents unable to get information about an adult child in a coma from a spider bite or in the midst of a mental healthcare crisis.
Having young adults or parents sign key legal documents also enables you to make healthcare decisions. I’m now positioned to assist my 18-year-old high schooler, a 22-year-old college graduate, and my 85-year-old father -- pictured here together in an era where I made them wear seatbelts on a golf cart. 😂
Who are you worried about?
Don't assume one of your other siblings has already talked to mom and dad about this and has it covered.
Taking care of elderly parents is a team sport and if you're the out-of-town son or daughter, this could be a great way for you to help out. Read on.
There are many ways to obtain these documents online, through a benefit offered by your employer or with your personal attorney or financial advisor.
Here are a few options to save you a few steps:
Kinfo: Founded by parents when they couldn’t source these documents easily, they provide a free HIPAA release and options for Durable Health Care Proxy and Durable Financial Power of Attorney. They’ve allowed me to share the discount code “Graduate” for a 20% discount positioning you to get all of those documents for less than $75. It took less than 5 minutes to produce the documents...On my list this week? Get them notarized for good measure.
Rocket Lawyer: This is a well-established global, SaaS-based legal platform that allows you to draft a Living Will, HIPAA authorization form, and Durable Power of Attorney. They offer a 7-day free trial, options for a monthly membership, or a reasonable price of $39 per document.
Know of other credible solutions? Share them in the comments, please.
Some advice? Don’t overthink this process. Something is better than nothing!
So no family finds themselves in an unnecessary dilemma in the midst of a healthcare crisis, join me in educating others by sharing this article with friends, clients, and colleagues.
Final Note: There’s nothing special about Labor Day as a deadline, by the way. I put that in the headline because without a due date, these things just never get done.