Massachusetts hospitals hand patients a two-page Health Care Proxy form that was developed in 1999 and does not accommodate for changes in the law since then or for issues pertinent to elders.
You probably have signed a “HIPAA” form by now at your doctor’s office. This form allows the doctor’s office to share your confidential information with anyone in particular you name, such as your spouse or children – while you are competent. (The Health Care Proxy kicks in when you cannot make or communicate your own decisions.) Without this form in place, your medical team is well within its rights to refuse to discuss your case with your family. Many elders like to know that the doctor will speak with their child later in the day to review the results of the appointment. A well drafted Health Care Proxy with your Elder Law Attorney will enable this. The state form does not.
The hospital form can also lead to expensive guardianship proceedings, because it lacks several important items. It does not allow the person you have named to authorize anti-psychotic medications, which can be critical to an elder with dementia, depression, or anxiety, or a combination of all three. It does not allow the agent to sign for a nursing home admission, nor to permit extraordinary measures (ex. feeding tube). If you have only the state form and you need any of these actions later, your family will have to commence a lengthy and time-consuming guardianship process.
Contact your elder law attorney today and ask to draft a new Health Care Proxy form and save your family considerable expense and headache later.