You send your son off to college, and hope that he’ll be safe, and steer clear of negative peer pressure while having a productive but memorable experience. There are many preparation items to check off the list, such as books, supplies for his dorm, and preparing financially for necessary expenses.
The semester is well underway. You send care packages, share phone calls, and if you’re lucky, see your “baby boy” during the holidays and breaks.
Then one day, you receive a call from his dorm roommate. Your son was walking home from the library, slipped and hit his head. He’s in the hospital and awake, but not fully coherent. You immediately contact the hospital to get more information, and they tell you that, unfortunately, his information cannot be shared to protect his privacy. They explain that your son is protected by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations since he is over the age of 18. A rule that is meant to protect us is now preventing you from helping your son.
This is an example of one of the scariest scenarios you could face, and you feel helpless. Since your son is not fully alert, he cannot accurately or effectively share the details of his condition with you either. He’s hundreds of miles away, and you desperately want to know what the prognosis is and be a part of the decision-making for his condition.
Unfortunately, this happens far too often. There are so many things to think about when sending a child to college, that no one predicts they may need to quickly make health-related decisions that serve in the best interest of the adult child.
We have good news, and remember this must be added to the “to do” list BEFORE your child leaves for college. There are documents you can have prepared in advance should the unimaginable happen, a Health-care Proxy and HIPAA Authorization. These two documents remove the potential barriers that would prevent you from openly discussing your child’s condition with their doctor, and, providing valuable input into their care, especially if he/she becomes incapacitated.
Many times, a living will and Durable Power of Attorney are often prepared along with the health-care proxy to help guide the direction. These documents give you as a parent the access and authority you need to help your child in the event that the worst happens.
The absolute best time to prepare these documents is BEFORE your child heads off to college. Seek professional help to correctly prepare the materials and avoid a situation where the proxy is rejected simply because an essential element was missing.