Each year, around 2 million young adults pack up their belongings and head to college in pursuit of higher learning. While for most parents this migration marks the long-awaited absence of loud music and teenage rebellion, many parents don’t realize that something else may very well go missing: their power to make medical and legal decisions for their children. As some find out the hard way, this departure can mean the loss of certain parental rights regarding access to a child’s medical care and records.
Jo, a mother, learned this lesson after receiving a call from her daughter’s college notifying her that the freshman had been in a car accident and suffered a head injury. Because Jo’s daughter had not signed advance directives once she turned 18 years old, Jo had no say in the health decisions regarding her daughter.
Parents often struggle with not knowing what their child is doing in college and whether he/she is safe and healthy. However, there must be a balance between respecting the privacy rights of the young adult and having an emergency plan in action. The truth of the matter is, once a child becomes a legal adult, no one else has free access to his/her personal medical proceedings. This can become a huge dilemma in emergency circumstances where a student is too ill or injured to sign a waiver releasing his/her medical information and consent to medical treatment.
What can parents to do to ensure their involvement in their child’s medical and legal matters?
The solution is simple: have your 18-year-old son or daughter sign a power of attorney with healthcare powers.
This legal document, often associated with sick or elderly individuals, grants certain rights and powers to a designated “agent” in case of incapacity. Not only does it allow the parent to make important medical care decisions, it also permits the parent to access all medical records. This single document has the ability to save a lot of time and frustration, ultimately reducing stress of the entire family during an emergency situation.
If your child is preparing to move away and go to college, you should have this important discussion with them in order to be prepared for any situation. For any questions about how to prepare a power of attorney with healthcare powers, contact Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC.