Legal Documents for Aging Parents That Every Caregiver Needs

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From supporting your loved one with activities of daily living (ADLs) to managing your own life tasks, family caregivers are unsung heroes. However, when it comes to managing your aging parent’s healthcare, it’s not enough to be their child. 

Certain laws regulate the healthcare industry, outlining who is allowed to receive status updates, converse with doctors and nurses, and make medical decisions. These strict policies are in place to protect our sensitive health information, but they can also prevent family caregivers from accessing vital information regarding their loved one’s care.

As a family caregiver, legal documents must be signed by your parent, permitting you to access their medical records and make care decisions on their behalf. You don’t want to wait until they’re needed to complete these legal documents for aging parents. The consequences of being unprepared with forms to make medical decisions are stressful for everyone involved.

Families can avoid time-consuming and expensive scenarios by getting permission to make medical decisions and access information while their loved ones are still well. Read on to learn about the two legal documents adult children need to stay informed and make healthcare decisions for elderly parents.

2 Caregiver Legal Documents You Need to Manage Your Parents’ Healthcare

1. HIPAA Authorization Form

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) exists to ensure a person’s medical information and records stay private. HIPAA protects all individually identifiable health information related to an individual’s past, present, or future medical conditions, treatments, and payments.

It’s illegal for medical professionals to share any details about a patient’s health unless written consent is given – even if you’re a patient’s family member. If your parent hasn’t listed you as an authorized recipient of their health information, you won’t be informed about their wellbeing.

HIPAA authorization is a simple yet important caregiver legal document. It authorizes doctors to inform approved individuals about patients’ medical status and discuss billing/payment. Every doctor’s office should have blank HIPAA forms for your parent to fill out, so make that a priority at your aging loved one’s next appointment.

2. Advance Care Directive

An advance directive has two primary components: a living will and a medical power of attorney (POA). 

  • Living Will

A living will is a written document that’s essential for end-of-life decision-making. It outlines how a person wants to be treated if they’re dying or permanently unconscious. Living wills direct healthcare professionals on whether to begin, cease, or refrain from performing certain medical/surgical treatments, such as feeding tubes.

In addition to or instead of a living will, a person may choose a medical POA.

  • Medical Power of Attorney

A medical POA or healthcare proxy designates an individual (“agent”) to make medical decisions for another person (“principal”) if the principal becomes incapable of making those decisions on their own. It establishes who should make end-of-life decisions.

HIPAA only authorizes caregivers to access information, while becoming a medical POA enables you to make healthcare decisions for elderly parents in the event they become incapacitated. It’s important to note that this legal document for aging parents must be prepared while they’re still mentally capable of giving you these powers.

Appointing a medical POA and/or a living will ensure that a person’s healthcare goals and preferences are communicated so their wishes will be fulfilled even if they can’t advocate for themselves.

Need Help Making Healthcare Decisions for Elderly Parents?

At Stowell Associates, we help adult children of aging parents gain clarity, stability, and peace of mind during challenging times. Our geriatric care consultants identify the best care solutions for your family’s unique situation and support you through crises, short- and long-term planning, and end-of-life decision-making

As Wisconsin’s premier home care agency, we work collaboratively with families and professional caregivers to provide the highest quality care to aging individuals. We take the burden of care off your shoulders and step in when you need it.

Our geriatric care management services are really life management for our older and disabled adult clients. Our expert geriatric care managers are registered nurses and masters-level social workers who create unparalleled, tailored care solutions for aging adults and their families.

Give our care team a call today at 414-775-0417 to learn more about how we can help care for you and your family.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.  All information, content and materials available in this article are for general informational purposes only.  Readers of this article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. 

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