Did you know that COVID-19 is surging among young adults in many states? With college campuses set to reopen in the fall, the risk of infection and hospitalization may be frightening, especially for students who have preexisting health conditions. While parents cannot control what happens at school, they can have frank discussions with their college kids and prepare critical health care estate planning documents to protect them. Let us take a moment to discuss three things parents and their college-bound children should be doing during COVID-19.
1. Parents should have the authority to make health care decisions. Parents may be used to taking care of their children’s medical needs. Once a child turns 18, however, he or she is legally considered an adult. That means parents can no longer make important health decisions for their adult student child without certain legal documents authorizing their participation.
One such document is a health care surrogate. It allows for a designated individual, like a parent, to make binding medical decisions on behalf of his or her college student child. If the document is not in place during an emergency, then doctors and other medical professionals may have the authority to make important care decisions that you may not agree with.
2. Obstacles to medical records and conversations with doctors should be removed. Thanks to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, your medical records are confidential unless you authorize specific individuals or organizations to access them. The same holds for young adults aged 18 or older.
While meant to protect sensitive medical information, parents may be in for an ugly surprise if their adult child is hospitalized without a HIPAA release that names them. If the child is incapacitated or unable to competently make decisions, his or her parents could be blocked from talking to doctors and learning about critical health developments.
3. Young adult students should talk about what matters to them. Talking about end-of-life health care decisions can be uncomfortable, but parents should consider having thoughtful discussions about life’s worst-case scenarios. College students are not immune from car accidents, violent crime, or life-threatening illnesses. Discussing what matters most to your adult child in a terminal medical situation would help make sure his or her wishes are followed.
A living will enshrines those wishes into a legally binding estate document. Living wills provide instructions for parents to follow so they do not have to agonize about pursuing life-saving procedures, or ending them. They also prevent others from acting against a patient's premeditated wishes.
For more information on navigating these critical legal issues, our office is here to help. Please feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.