Having a Power of Attorney arrangement in place with one’s adult child can provide both parent and adult child with a great deal of peace of mind. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf in a specific situation. In California, young adults over the age of 18 can grant power of attorney to another person to make decisions or take actions on their behalf. This can be especially important for young adults who may be away at college, traveling, or serving in the military.

A parent may be caught off guard if their adult (above the age of 18) child winds up in a hospital, and they are confronted with HIPAA regulations.  Without a POA they will have trouble getting information or making a decision on behalf of their adult child.  HIPAA is a federal law enacted in 1996 that sets national standards for protecting the privacy and security of individuals’ health information. The law requires that covered entities, such as hospitals, health plans, and other healthcare providers, use appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI).  Protected health information (PHI) refers to any information that relates to your past, present, or future physical or mental health condition, the provision of health care to the patient, or payment for that care. Examples of PHI include medical records, diagnoses, treatments, medications, test results, and billing information.  Only individuals who need access to the patient’s PHI for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations purposes are authorized access that PHI. This includes doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers who are involved in the patient’s care, as well as the hospital’s billing and administrative staff. Unless the patient has given their written permission, no one else can access their PHI without a court order or other legal process.

If an adult child cannot communicate for themselves a valid POA will guarantee that a parent has the ability to speak to the hospital on their child’s behalf.  Having power of attorney gives the agent appointed in the POA immediate access to the patient’s medical information. The agent can speak with the hospital staff and make informed decisions about their child’s care without having to wait for authorization or jump through legal hoops.  In a medical emergency time is of the essence.  With a POA in place the agent is empowered to make critical decisions about the adult child’s medical care, such as consenting to medical procedures or treatments, without having to wait for the adult child’s consent.  This critical tool can make all the difference in a life or death situation.  This can be incredibly important if your child is unconscious or otherwise unable to make decisions for themselves.  Your child may have previously expressed their wishes regarding medical treatment. Having power of attorney allows the parent to act on their behalf and ensure that their wishes are respected. In some cases, family members may disagree about the best course of action for a loved one’s medical care. By having power of attorney, the parent can avoid delays or conflicts by being the designated decision-maker for their child. This can ensure that the adult child receives the care they need in a timely manner, without having to wait for legal authorization or resolving disputes.

In conclusion, having the adult child give their parent/s power of attorney can be incredibly beneficial in the event of a medical emergency. It provides you with immediate access to medical information, the ability to make critical decisions, a way to represent your child’s wishes, and can help to avoid delays or conflicts. If you are considering this arrangement, be sure to consult with an attorney to ensure that everything is done properly and in accordance with the law.

Written by: Marit Marcus, Paraprofessional