There comes a time when most of us require a hospital stay of one night or more for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you are having minor surgery, giving birth or have an accident. Maybe it is major surgery. Whatever the case, make sure you, your family and medical team are on the same page.
If you are hospitalized in an emergency situation, there are still things you should have in place. You should hire an attorney now and have a health care proxy, living will and power of attorney, if you don’t already have these assignments. Having these legal documents prepared when you are well will save much time and stress in the event you become ill. A health care proxy is a friend or family member assigned to give medical instruction for your treatment if you are unable to do so. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to administration of nourishment and medications, transfusions or emergency surgery.
The living will is general a document witnessed to address your needs should you be in a serious medical condition. This will state what your intentions are should you need to be on life support, such as a ventilator. Your desire to remain or decline life support when medical experts have asserted that you are unlikely to become better should be noted. These issues are, of course, difficult to discuss with loved ones, but make your intentions known if you have preferences. Quality of life and cost of medical support should be discussed frankly and openly.
Power of attorney is a designated person who is legally able to access your bank accounts and other important documents if you are unable to. In the event of a serious illness or injury, someone close to you can be responsible for paying bills, caregivers and attend to other fiscal needs during your illness or recovery period. If you are able to, this relative can bring checks for you to sign and assist you in paying your bills or they can do it for you.
An issue recently arose in my own family where a hospital stay required my mom to be out of the home for much longer than she planned. My dad required care at home in her absence. Fortunately, a plan was implemented that was in place and things went rather smoothly. If not for their diligence in preparing ahead of time for medical emergencies, this could have been disastrous.
Most people have a spouse or significant other that can handle most of these situations in an emergency. However, if your spouse is physically or mentally unable to perform these duties, be sure you have alternates, such as children or other relatives or trusted friends willing to step in.
It is better to have this conversation before it’s needed, unpleasant as it might be, rather than stressing out in the event of an emergency.