3 Must-Have Documents

Let’s look at the documents that are used to let your loved ones know which life-sustaining procedures you want.

  1. Medical Power of Attorney
  2. Advance Health Care Directive
  3. HIPAA Authorization Form

Each one serves its own purpose. Family members can be barred from getting important information and unable to make decisions for the patient. The family could, in some situations, have to go to court and petition for guardianship. This is costly and very time-consuming. When it comes to critical medical care decisions, it’s best that families are prepared before needed.

You will note that I list the Medical Power of Attorney as a separate document as well as part of the Living Will. I prefer the combination but the patient could have both as long as the primary Health Care Agent is the same person. It is sometimes more expedient to have the simple Medical POA for doctor and clinic visits. Those facilities should make a copy and scan into medical records. You may be asked for the POA at pharmacies and specialist offices also.

You will find more information in my post, Power of Attorney. In review, you will have designated a person to make medical decisions for you. The POA goes into effect when you are physically or mentally unable to speak for yourself. Just remember, this document must be created while the patient is of sound mind and capable of granting this power to their chosen agent.

I can’t express strongly enough how crucial this document is to both family and patient. Medical facilities will ask for it before the patient is even admitted.

Okay, you have a Will. That covers you after you die. So, what in heaven’s name is a Living Will?

A living will give instructions when you are no longer able or competent to communicate your wishes while you are still alive.

This document is a must-have for your family. It will take away stress and stop squabbles.

This is a particularly difficult form to complete. It must be done when the patient is able to understand the decisions. My brother and I sat at our father’s bedside and completed his DNR for the VA hospital. Dad was able to give each question some thought and discuss his choices.

Most of the time he said “Unplug Me”. Our dad was a very no-nonsense kind of guy, but he had a sense of humor.

That answer is certainly one of the choices but we found the circumstances surrounding the questions were a bit more thought-provoking.

The Form


This is simply the patient’s name, address, phone, and social security number.


This is a description of the document and identifies the A. Health Care Agent and B. Alternate Health Care Agent chosen by the patient.


Part A – Specific Preferences About Life-Sustaining Treatments:

Dad had to initial one of three choices offered for EACH situation listed.

  1. Yes. I would want life-sustaining treatments.
  2. I’m not sure. It would depend on the circumstances.
  3. No. I would not want life-sustaining treatments.


  • If I am unconscious, in a coma, or in a begetative state and there is little or no chance of recovery
  • If I have permanent, severe brain damage that makes me unable to recognize my family or friends (for example, severe dementia)
  • If I have a permanent condition where other people must help me with my daily needs (for example, eating, batheing, toileting)
  • If I need to use a breathing machine and be in bed for the rest of my life
  • If I have pain or other severe symptoms that cause suffering and can’t be relieved
  • If I have a condition that will make me die very soon, even with life-sustaining treatments
  • Other

Part B. Mental Health Preferences

The patient could list medications that have worked in the past and would want to try again. They could write down mental health facilities or hospitals that they preferred and those they did not like.

Part C. Additional Preferences

For example, these might be social, cultural, or faith-based preferences for care or treatments such as feeding tubes, blood transfusions, and medications.

Part D. How Strictly You Want Your Preferences Followed.

One of these two must be initialed by the patient:

  1. I want my preferences, as expressed in the Living Will, to serve as a general guide. I understand that in some situations, the person making decisions for me may decide something different from the preferences I express above, if they think it’s in my best interests.
  2. I want my preferences, as expressed in the Living Will, to be followed strictly, even if the person making decisions for me thinks that this isn’t in my best interests.


A. Patient’s signature affirming that the form accurately describes their preferences.

B. Signatures of two witnesses. These persons are NOT appointed as Health Care Agents, they are not financially responsible for the person’s care, and they are not named in the person’s will.


HIPAA Authorization Form

We have all heard about HIPAA.  Most of the time it makes friends and family members mad.  I know that sounds crazy but it’s true.  It’s really true when you are a fiance’ or roommate or life-partner.  Medical staff will tell you nothing.  By law, they are not allowed to do so.  This law can vary from state-to-state.

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act outlines the standards of keeping your medical information private.  It is for your protection.  It is not for making your sister mad.

Simple solution:  Every clinic, doctor office, emergency department, and hospital has these forms on hand.  If you are able, you can designate the people you approve to have your medical info.  It will allow the medical personnel to answer all your questions, in-person or on the phone.

You can leave one with your primary doctor’s office and ask that it is added to your records.  Usually, it is scanned and uploaded for quick access by authorized medical facilities.  When you do this, let your family know where your HIPAA form is recorded.

Kids at College are Adults

We often think of our children away at college as our dependents, which they are to the IRS.  But, they are usually adult age and will be treated as such in most circumstances.

The key word here is ADULT.  You must have all of these documents for your adult children.  Have them drawn up before they leave the nest.