My son turned 18 a few weeks ago and graduated from high school this month. You may feel my pain – your child is no longer a child. Their 18th birthday comes around and all of a sudden, in an instant, they’re an adult.
Even though your child may still be living at home or away at college but depending on you financially, according to HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and other privacy laws, you can no longer access their medical records once they turn 18 without a health care proxy in place.
Your child actually has to grant you permission in writing to be part of their care. The process is fairly simple. Your child can appoint you, your spouse or another guardian as their agent. That agent can then access records, talk to doctors and make important decisions about medical care.
The agent will talk to doctors about treatment options, surgeries, answer for the patient if the “child” is unable, and be an advocate for the patient’s care – you know, just like you do now!
A few scenarios to show the importance of a health care proxy. Your child might be studying abroad for a semester and they fall ill or get into an accident. Even though you might not be able to physically be in the same location right away, you will still be able to talk to the doctors over the phone, get updates and be a part of the care process immediately.
Even if your child has battled an illness most of their life, or has special needs, and you have always been part of their care, as soon as they turn 18, that stops. You might be so used to being a part of it all that you haven’t even considered a time you wouldn’t be there, but laws are laws. Getting the proxy in place is so important so you never have interrupted time.
A good time to think about all of this is your child’s senior year of high school or prior to that if they will turn 18 while still in high school. The process is quick but there could be unforeseen circumstances so waiting until the last minute is never a good idea.
If the choice between mom and dad is too hard, your child can appoint more than one proxy (acting together or separately). Or one parent can be the primary and the second can be appointed an alternate.
So if you have a son or daughter who just turned 18 (or 19 or 20) and you want to make sure that you still can be involved in their medical lives, give me a call. It doesn’t take very long. We can prepare the necessary forms and schedule a 15 minute meeting to get it done.