Caregiver Questions Answered about Financials & Legality

Becoming a caregiver can bring up questions along the way, below you will find answer to common questions about finacials and legal help. 

Can my senior loved one give permission for me to have access to their health information? 

Generally, a patient, as long as he or she remains in control of his or her own affairs, can grant access to their private health information to another individual, be they a family member, friend, legal representative, insurer, or other loved one. The HIPPA laws stipulate that an individual is in control of his or her health information. 

What happens if my senior loved one is unconscious or unable to give permission to share information?  

If the patient has not given prior explicit consent, then there are more limitations. The grey areas are more subject to the discretion of the care provider. The health care providers are allowed to discuss relevant health information with a direct family member, caregiver, or even friend, if the health care provider considers that person responsible for the patient’s care, while the patient is unable to speak on his or her own behalf. 

Generally, they cannot share protected health information not relevant to the current treatment being provided. 

Does my loved one’s healthcare provider need to have written or documented permission to share information with me? 

Surprisingly, this is not required by the HIPAA privacy laws; the permission does not need to be in writing to comply with the law. However, this doesn’t mean that state or local laws don’t require written permission, and the health care provider may also, as a matter of policy, require such permission in writing. 

What should I do to help get my family member's legal and financial affairs in order? 

It is important to get organized and to maintain an open line of communication with your family member. The sooner this is done, the better—especially while the family member is still healthy or at least competent. Have a frank discussion with the family member about his or her desires regarding actions to take or not to take in the case of a severe or terminal illness, palliative treatment, or wishes with regard to medical treatment. 

These wishes can be formalized in a living will, which discusses what is to be done regarding one’s care if the individual is no longer able to competently make these decisions; and also in a durable health care power of attorney, which gives another person the ability to make decisions for a patient that is later unable to make those decisions, access patient records, pick up prescriptions, communicate on behalf of the patient, and otherwise act on the patient’s behalf with regards to health care delivery. 

Make sure a trusted person knows where to access important documents, and knows who the existing and past caregivers are. It is also helpful-sometimes critical, to let this person know about allergies, and health issues that may impinge upon future care. 

Some helpful guidance on how to organize and prepare for health care contingencies can be found here:  

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