Are You Prepared?
Growing up, the Boy Scout motto, “be prepared” was drilled into me. Recently, I was unexpectedly called to take my mother to the emergency room which turned out to be a timely reminder of the importance of this simple phrase. While I have her Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Will in the Cloud, I realized I don’t carry hard copies of these essential documents. Not to mention I didn’t know what medications she takes or even the name and phone number of her doctor. After 40 years of being an Eagle Scout, I still needed the reminder to be prepared. Luckily, my mother was discharged after 8 tedious hours, but the experience stuck with me. I was rattled by my own lack of preparation. What if the situation were gravely serious? Would I be prepared to help my loved ones in the event of an emergency?
The next morning at my office, I printed copies of my mother’s Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and her Living Will, put them in an envelope, and placed them in the glove compartment of my car. Electronic copies of these documents are fine, but hospitals usually need printed copies. A friend also pointed out that if my mother had been admitted, I might have needed a second copy because once out of the ER, the process starts all over again. The ER is too busy to share those documents with other parts of the hospital as quickly as you will need them. Having a list of all my mother’s medications and allergies would have been helpful too. I am now keeping a list of her medications on my phone, along with her doctor’s name and number in my contacts.
My mother’s documents were prepared a number of years ago, now the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and separate Living Will can be combined into one document called the Advance Health Care Directive. The Advance Health Care Directive (ADHC) allows you to appoint someone (health care agent, attorney-in-fact, proxy, or surrogate) to make a decision for you if you cannot speak for yourself. This is recognized in every state but states also have their own forms, as laws vary from state to state.
The Advance Health Care Directive is just one of the Legal Documents Everyone Should Have prepared against future incapacity or medical emergency. You should also have a General Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters, a Will, to make clear your intentions around personal property and money, and Memorial Instructions so your family knows your desires for handling services and remembrances after your death. Remember in addition to making sure you have these up-to-date legal documents for yourself and your loved ones, it is equally important that other family members know where to find them. Where to Find My Important Papers is a great checklist to give family members so they can find everything they need whenever they might need it.
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Jason Hood is a practical lawyer with a broad range of experience.