Do You Have These Important Medical Documents?

Are you prepared for medical emergencies? While no one likes to think about the possibility of major medical issues, planning ahead can make dealing with a major medical issue much easier. Having the right medical documents in place means both family members and your doctors will know your wishes and know who should make decisions for you if you’re not able to make them yourself.  

Here are the basic medical documents everyone should have.

Advance Directive/Living Will

An advance directive or living will simply makes your medical decisions clear in case you can’t communicate them yourself, whether that’s due to having a stroke, being unconscious, or simply struggling to think and communicate clearly. An advance directive can outline your wishes for end-of-life care, organ donation, and more, which means your family isn’t left deciding for you. Make sure your family and friends understand your wishes with a properly written advance directive.

Durable Power of Attorney

There are limits to the kind of information that a caregiver can access without specific documentation. A power of attorney allows the designated person to make decisions on both finances and healthcare if you’re unable to do so for yourself. 

HIPAA Release

HIPAA is the federal law that governs patient privacy, and it prohibits a medical provider from sharing your health information with anyone else unless you’ve provided consent. You’ve likely signed a HIPAA release annually with your primary care physician or other medical providers. It’s an important document, because your medical information can’t even be shared with your designated power of attorney without a signed HIPAA release. Make sure you’ve signed a release for anyone who makes decisions for you in case you’re not able to make a decision yourself.

Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment

This document makes sure a patient’s preferences for end-of-life treatment are followed. A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form is the precursor to this form, but a POLST allows for more flexibility in this kind of care. It allows doctors to understand the wishes of patients who can no longer communicate their preferences. 

An advanced directive or living will is not recognized by emergency services, so you need to have a current POLST or DNR as well. Without a properly completed POLST or DNR in place, emergency providers will still attempt to resuscitate a patient, so be sure your forms are current and align with your wishes. Some forms vary from one state to another as well, so if you’ve moved, be sure to update the forms accordingly. 

These documents are beneficial for everyone, but they’re especially important for anyone with a chronic health problem or terminal illness. Contact a lawyer to make sure your documentation is filled out correctly so you can have peace of mind that your medical wishes will be followed in the event of an emergency.