What to Know When Your Parents Are in the Hospital
It is a strange role-reversal when your parent is in the hospital and you become the caregiver. You are a responsible adult now, and your parent needs your help. Here are three forms you should know about if your parent is anticipating any type of medical procedures:
No matter what their medical situation, if your parent is in the hospital or is anticipating a hospital stay, you may need a health care proxy. The laws are strict on who can speak for a patient when that patient is unable to make his or her own health care decisions. There are several reasons why you may not be legally considered the next of kin. Having a health care proxy in place will avoid confusion and complication at a critical time.
From a legal perspective, there are certain relationships that may have primacy for medical decision-making. They include:
- Adult siblings
- Current spouse
- Adult children from a prior marriage
- Adult close friends
- Adult grandchildren
In your family, these people may or may not be the appropriate choice to make medical decisions. However, if one of them steps forward to assume that responsibility, you may need to accept their perspective. The doctors can only take direction from one person. Legally, it is not up to the medical staff to decide who should be giving that direction.
A health care proxy should override any general legal president and establish clearly who is making medical decisions for your parent. Most medical facilities will ask for a copy of the health care proxy, if you have one, during preregistration. This way, if it is needed, the information is available to the medical team and can quickly be referenced.
Getting a health care proxy for your parent can also be a conversation starter. Many people do not talk about what they want to happen if they are no longer able to care for themselves and make their own medical decisions. We usually think of parents as the caretakers, but as our parents get older, we may need to take care of them someday.
Understanding what your parent’s wishes are is an important part of making medical decisions on their behalf. It is also a good idea to involve other family members in these conversations. Everyone should be clear on their role in a potential medical crisis. Most will be comfortable with the arrangements as long as they get to hear it from your parent and have an opportunity to discuss these decisions.
A health care proxy can be executed with a form you can buy in a stationary store or online. Be sure you get a form that is appropriate for your state, since these laws may differ. The form will also require your parent to stipulate one person to make medical decisions in case they are not able to.
The form needs to be signed and notarized, possibly witnessed, depending on your state. Once the health care proxy is fully executed, share a copy with other family members and keep it in a safe place. When your parent is in the hospital or any medical facility, bring a copy of the health care proxy with you. Any doctors who treat your parent should have a copy of the health care proxy in their file.
A living will is a document that works with a health care proxy to ensure your parent is appropriately taken care of if he or she is not able to make medical decisions. In a living will, your parent would be able to stipulate what types of medical interventions they want or do not want if they are incapacitated.
Many people think of a living will before they consider a health care proxy, but the two documents work well together. A living will gives clear direction on possible medical treatments, but it cannot consider every scenario. With a living will in place, your parent still may need a health care proxy to assist in making the right medical decisions for their situation.
There are simple forms available for a living will online. They ask several hypothetical questions to help people understand the decisions they could face. You may want to talk through these with your parents and have them describe to you what they do and do not want to happen as part of their end-of-life care. The living will allows them to put it in writing for medical personnel to follow, as well.
A living will should be signed by your parent and notarized. Share it will their doctors at the appropriate time.
Depending on your parent’s prognosis, you may want to have a DNR in place to prevent doctors from performing CPR. When the heart and breathing stop, it is standard protocol for most medical staff to administer CPR to get them going again. If your parent is in the end stages of a terminal disease, they may not want to be resuscitated.
Start by talking to your doctor about your parent’s desire for a DNR. The forms are available online in most states and can be executed without an attorney. You will, however, need a notary.
It is a good idea to have these legal instruments — health care proxy, living will and DNR — in place in advance of any potential medical issues. If possible, discuss them with your parents while they are healthy, so if an emergency arises, you will know what to do. You should review and update these documents anytime your parents prepare for surgery or expect to be admitted to a hospital for any reason.
Dealing with your parent’s health issues can be stressful, but executing legal forms should not. With Superior Notary, you can easily schedule a mobile notary to complete your legal forms. Contact us by phone or online, and we will send a notary to meet you at the hospital or wherever you are. You can have peace of mind with Superior Notary that the paperwork is signed and notarized properly. The convenience of a mobile notary means you can spend precious time with your parent, rather than running around town getting documents notarized.