It’s back to school time. For many families, they welcome the return of structured days, learning and a normal routine. But for parents of college-age kids, that concept may conjure up tears, excitement and a bit of nervousness with their child living on their own. While many families are focused on moving into dorm rooms, class schedules and new cities to explore, many parents overlook the idea that their child is now considered an adult in the health care system and their consent is no longer needed for medical treatment. Due to current privacy laws, communication is also limited unless proper paperwork is completed.
Documents for Every Family
FAMILY OFFICE® has partnered with PinnacleCare, a private healthcare advisory firm, to provide access to leading medical experts and specialists at the leading Centers of Excellence around the world. Stefan H. Zachar, III is the Vice President of PinnacleCare and provides prudent advice about being involved in your child’s health care while they are away at school. Zachar says, “As your teenager prepares to go off to college, there are several key documents that every parent should have in their possession prior to their child’s departure. Once a child turns 18, their adult status results in the medical world adhering to strong boundaries determining who they will speak with, provide health information about, and allow to make decisions on a patient’s behalf.” He recommends the following documents to ensure your child’s medical safety:
- A HIPAA authorization giving medical providers permission to speak with you on your child’s behalf. If the school has its own form, sign that one too. When a treating doctor or hospital staff sees it, you want them to recognize it.
- Advance Directives identifying you as a medical proxy giving you permission to make decisions when your child is unable to do so. Advance Directive forms vary by state. Have one that is accepted in your home state as well as the state where your child will be attending college.
- A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) to allow you to take care of business on your child’s behalf (sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills). Durable POA forms, like Advance Directives, vary by state. In some states a medical POA (taking the place of the Advance Directives) can be included in the durable POA form. You are encouraged to have a lawyer assist in this process.
- A list of your child’s immunizations and prescription medications (take a legible picture of the labels). If any health care provider asks, it will be easily accessible.
Zachar goes on to recommend, “Once the forms are completed, it’s a good idea for both you and your child to take a picture of each document and save it on your smartphones. This way both of you will have access to these important papers.”
More Important Tips
Other factors to consider for unexpected emergencies are:
- Make sure your child has their insurance card and a credit card with them at school. Many medical facilities require you to pay a co-pay prior to treatment. An insurance card helps document your insurance and makes your billing more accurate.
- Exchange phone numbers with your child’s roommate and closest friends at school. Friends become essential to your child’s safety and a lifeline if your child is unable to communicate.
- Encourage your child to trust one friend with their phone pass code. This allows those important documents to be accessed in an emergency and the family member contact information to be gathered.
- Research the hospitals and urgent care centers surrounding your child’s school in advance. This allows you and your child to have a plan if medical care is needed.
- Empower your children to speak up when being treated medically. They ultimately know their bodies best. Let them know it okay to speak up or raise questions if something seems unusual.
While all the medical staff in the world can’t replace parents in a medical crisis, these tips will help things go more smoothly if the unexpected occurs.