planned giving power attorney

Power of Attorney: The Importance of Being Prepared         

By Lauren J. Wolven

A few years ago, my partner received a scary phone call from her child’s college roommate. Her child had collapsed in the dorm bathroom while getting ready for class and was in the hospital. Terrified, my partner contacted the hospital, and she was shocked to learn they couldn’t release any information because her child was over 18 and legally an adult. The hospital required a medical power of attorney before they could tell her anything. She had to make the thousand-mile trip not knowing how her child was doing. It was one of the worst situations a parent could face.   

What if you got a call that your loved one – spouse, parent or adult child – was in the hospital?  Would you be prepared? It can be overwhelming to even think about, but guidance and help are available. 

Many states have power of attorney forms that comply with the state’s statutes. In other states, different organizations, such as local bar associations, legal services and elder care services, offer free forms. Local libraries often run programs to help with issues like this and may even be able to help you find a form. 

Making sure that adult children, parents and other loved ones you may need to care for have a power of attorney in place can make a tremendous difference when a crisis occurs. Since the enactment of HIPAA laws to protect patient privacy, physicians and health care facilities are even more careful about releasing any information, even in an emergency like the one my partner faced. Take the time to make sure you and your loved ones complete and sign a medical power of attorney indicating who a hospital can speak with if you or your loved one are unable to communicate.   

Acting responsibly on these issues is particularly important when you have a health condition like arthritis or are taking medications that may have serious side effects. Take care of yourself and those you love. Put a medical power of attorney in place and give a copy to your primary care physician or the physician of the person for whom you hold the power.    

For free assistance with this and other estate and financial matters, please contact the Arthritis Foundation’s planned giving department at 866-528-8687. One of our planned giving directors will be happy to offer guidance for your unique situation. Don’t wait for an emergency. Be prepared. 

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