Written By Karen Elise Robbins
August 2, 2022
Every year as August approaches and summer is on its downward turn I start thinking about the start of the school year and the inevitable date when my college “kids” head back to campus. Though my sons never wanted help with packing, organizing or the like, the one thing I could insure is that when they leave, I have the correct paperwork to talk with their doctors, counselors and the like once they leave the protective walls of my home. Just as there existed no one guide to raising kids, few colleges list HIPAA releases and health care representative forms on their “To do” lists for students.
It isn’t actually leaving the nest that necessitates the signing of the above important documents, but your child’s 18th birthday. With two of my three already past 18, it still strikes me as incongruous that if one were to go to urgent care or the emergency room at 11:59 pm the night before their 18th birthday I could take charge, sign their forms, speak with their doctors and make decisions for them if that is what I chose. Should the same emergency occur just a minute later, my child would be on their own and my rights to act on their behalf simply vanish. Watching my middle son’s perplexed attempt to fill out the requisite forms to have his wisdom teeth removed the weekend after high school graduation reinforced the fact that becoming a legal adult did not mean he was instantly ready to handle his medical care on his own. Truth is, in our medical system, no one should be solely left on their own to navigate their care no matter what age.
While, most of my practice is spent with the elderly and older clients, August brings in many younger clients. Those whose parents are “in the know” and smartly want to preserve their ability to advocate and act for their child at home as well as when they are away at school no matter the location.
What You May Need In A Medical Emergency to act on your teen’s behalf:
- Health Care Proxy(also referred to as a healthcare agent or medical power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, or durable power of attorney for health care)
This authorizes you to make medical decisions and it gives you access to their medical records and the ability to converse with their medical health care providers. By signing a healthcare proxy, your teen is appointing you to act on your behalf in making medical decisions should they so choose.
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)authorization (also called a HIPAA release) A more narrow document that permits the healthcare providers to disclose your teen’s healthcare information to you or anyone they specify, in person, over the phone or through email, etc. This document alone will often suffice for you to get information from the health care institution treating your child. In a HIPAA authorization, a young adult can stipulate that they don’t want to disclose information about such things sex, drugs, mental health, or other details that they prefer to keep private. As with the broader healthcare proxy, a HIPAA release can also include a Living Will if your teen so chooses.
- Durable Power of Attorney (Durable POA)
This enables a parent or other adult to make financial decisions on the student’s behalf. The POA can provide that power vests in you immediately after signing the document or that it vests only if your child becomes incapacitated. The POA permits the designated representative, among other things, to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, pay bills, make changes to your child’s financial aid package, or figure out tuition problems.
Call me so I can discuss the above documents with you. A bit of your time and a small fee will bring you invaluable peace of mind when your child heads towards their next stage of independence.
Now – on to Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon to purchase the requisite XL sheets.
Karen Elise Robbins is an attorney admitted to practice law in Connecticut. She has completed her L.L.M. degree in Elder Law and Estate Planning from Western New England School of Law. She can be contacted at (860)871-8000 or [email protected].