Since our recent Emergency Room experience, we have indeed gotten our health care documentation in order. That episode taught us that we were vulnerable, and Rich’s subsequent surgery was all the incentive we needed to make sure we were prepared with the information and rights we needed to protect each other’s health. In short order, we accomplished the following:
- Exchanged information on health care providers – we documented all our doctors, dentists, clinics and their contact information and shared them with each other. I happen to use LastPass to securely store all my passwords and other critical data, so I added records for this information as well. I can then access it from my smartphone, iPad, or any PC.
- Completed Health Care Directives – this has two important parts:
1) assign a primary and secondary health care agent and define their rights
2) outline your wishes for life-sustaining medical treatment and end of life care
Forms for Health Care Directives are easily found on the internet, but they are specific to the state in which you live, so it is important to select the correct one. They also need to be signed by two witnesses or a notary public.
It wasn’t clear to us what rights a spouse has, so we each filled out a Health Care Directive assigning each other as our primary health care agent. We also asked our unmarried sons to complete one as well. Parents do not automatically have rights to information or to make decisions on behalf of their adult children.
At our age, one doesn’t often think about end of life care (really, we’re not that old!). But in completing the forms, we discovered personal wishes that were important to share with one another. And since these documents can be replaced at any time, we know we can update them if our desires or circumstances change.
Rich provided copies of his Health Care Directive to his doctors and the hospital for his surgery. We are also keeping scanned copies on our smartphones as well as home computers, and sent copies to our children. You never know when or where you will need it.
One is rarely prepared for a health emergency. We certainly weren’t. I think we are now in a better situation going forward. And hopefully we won’t be needing these measures soon. But I feel better for having taken these steps.
Have you documented your health care yet?