Childhood Comes With An Expiration Date
Graduation season is approaching; your children and grandchildren are preparing to graduate from high school and are ready to launch into adulthood as they turn eighteen. But are they? Are you prepared for the child you have nurtured all these years to turn 18? If you are like most parents, probably not, but childhood does come with an expiration date and there are several things, other than worrying about college tuition payments and planning the perfect grad party, that need your attention.
I will share a personal story that I have shared with many of my clients through the years in the hopes that they will never face the same situation. In the Fall of 2006, I packed my twins up and moved them to their respective colleges. The oldest was attending school in Chicago and early one morning I noticed I had missed a call and had a message on my cell phone. The message was from the RA at her school alerting me that my daughter was rushed to the hospital early that morning and was seriously ill. Other than that message left at 3:00 a.m. and the name of the hospital, they provided no other additional information. I immediately called the hospital and was told that because my daughter was 18 they would not release any information, not even if she had been admitted or was a patient in their facility.
I frantically called the school and they provided no information. The RA who left the message did not find it necessary to return my many calls. Ultimately, I drove from Grosse Pointe to the Chicago hospital, imagining the worst, in record time. By the time I reached the hospital she had been treated and released.
The purpose of my story, when your child turns 18 you as a parent no longer have legal access to their health care information or authority to make decisions regarding their health care. Two relatively simple documents prepared by your attorney, a HIPAA Release and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, should spare you the angst I suffered that day. Most states will honor a document executed under the laws of the home state. Had I been prepared, I could have faxed the HIPAA release to the hospital, and the health care providers would have updated me on my daughter’s condition. A Financial Durable Power of Attorney is also highly recommended to allow you to make financial or legal decisions on your child’s behalf.