As we age, the importance of our healthcare directives increases along with the likelihood that we’ll need more care in a hospital or care community. Healthcare directives come into play if you become incapacitated, and they let your family and care providers know what level of care you want, who should make healthcare decisions for you and who should be made aware of your medical conditions. There are three main types of healthcare directives: living will, healthcare power of attorney and HIPAA release form.
The living will is the document that allows you to make decisions about the type and level of care you want if you’re ever unable to communicate those wishes to your healthcare providers. For instance, if you suffer from severe dementia or enter a coma without leaving behind instructions for your healthcare, you run the risk of being kept alive through artificial means—even if that’s something you would never want. The living will makes it clear to healthcare providers if you do not want to be kept alive on a breathing machine or with a feeding tube if there is no real chance that you would ever recover.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
The healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA) gives the agent of your choice the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you are ever incapacitated. This is a separate document from the living will, which addresses specifically who should be in charge of your healthcare if you can no longer make or voice your decisions. Your agent—typically a spouse or adult child—communicates your wishes to your healthcare providers, so it’s important to make your wishes known to them before the time comes. Everyone 18 and older should have a HCPOA since we could all experience a time when we are unable to communicate our wishes—even if for only a short period of time.
HIPAA Release Form
The HIPAA release form, which may also be called a health information privacy release, allows people of your choosing to speak with healthcare providers about your condition. There is no decision-making ability given in this release as it’s only meant to help family members and other loved ones stay up to date about your medical conditions if you wish. Otherwise, doctors and other healthcare providers cannot share any of your information with your family members due to HIPAA laws.
If you have any questions about your existing healthcare directives, or if you would like to discuss creating a new living will, healthcare power of attorney, or HIPAA release, please contact our Ohio elder law office at 877-653-3450 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation.