For the very fortunate, end-of-life care can be managed by a loving family member. For many, their spouse may have already passed away or will not be up to the task due to age or state of their own health. In these instances, it’s common for another family member to step in and assist. However, what happens if no biological family members are available to make medical decisions for a hospice patient? Can a dear friend step in? The answer to this question can be very complicated.
The Second Choice Scenario - Planning For a Lack of Next-of-Kin
We’d all like to believe that when the time comes to make important decisions about our end-of-life care, that our spouses or children will be there. Even if this isn’t the case, we like to believe that we’ll be able to select a good friend who can make decisions on our behalf. However, a deteriorating health condition that may result in the need for hospice care may outpace our ability to make such decisions if a next-of-kin is unavailable. For this reason, every person needs to establish a chain-of-command of decision-makers regarding their care. Such decisions can be made while setting an Advance Directive, Living Will, or even writing out one’s final wishes. This chain of command should extend far beyond one’s own biological family. All responsibilities should be confirmed with those involved to ensure they understand and consent to such duties.
Why Making Health Wishes Legally Binding is Important
Though scribbling out one’s last wishes on a piece of paper, it is important that these wishes are backed with legal authority. Why? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the primary legal act protecting patients’ medical privacy in the United States, protects the disclosure of private health information of patients against outside sources. This means that even family members may not be able to access a loved one’s medical information without the proper release documents. When time is of the essence and making decisions about another’s care can’t wait, it is advantageous for those intended decision-makers to have the necessary medical clearance.
It’s crucial to have a legal professional or medical organization assist you in providing medical release forms for the intended decision-makers. Keep all release forms in a safe and convenient location along with other vital documents.
So, can a close friend manage someone’s medical care? If the proper planning is done ahead of time — absolutely. If, however, arrangements are delayed until the patient can no longer consent to said medical release, the chances being possible might be unlikely. This is why it is crucial to make arrangements in advance with a legal professional with knowledge of HIPAA requirements.
Hospice & Palliative Care to the Greater Tulsa, OK Area
Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care is honored to serve the Tulsa, OK area with the most professional and nurturing services available. You’re invited to learn more about Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care today.