Preserving Privacy During Medical Care


I recently spent a night at the ER with a friend who’d broken her wrist. And after a couple hours of sitting in the waiting room, I knew just about every personal detail about every patient that had come in while we were waiting. Of course, emergency situations often trump discreet conversations – but I’ve noticed this “openness” more whenever I visit the doctor or go online.

How much to post on Facebook, Caring Bridge or email?

You’ve probably noticed, too, the propensity people have to share every intimate detail in online posts – especially if a spouse or parent is facing a medical crisis. And these updates do help the rest of us wondering about how things are going. But sometimes, I think this information gets a bit too personal and borders on violating the person’s privacy. I surely wouldn’t want everyone to know such things about me – and I’m pretty confident my parents don’t either!

Ask now so you’ll know later.

To be double-sure, though, I asked my parents how they would like me to keep our relatives informed in case of illness. I had the perfect opening because my uncle is going through treatment for cancer and the constant, detailed updates are driving my Mom crazy! So, I opened it up to them and asked “what would you like me to do if it was you?”. And guess what, they do not want me posting all that information online. Boy, am I glad I asked! This discussion also opened the door to the bigger issue of long-term medical care and got us talking about a “living will.”

Setting up an Advance Health Care Directive.

Nowadays a living will is usually called an Advance Health Care Directive and is considered a legally-binding document. It’s mostly intended to provide decision-making directions to family members or friends if the person becomes incapacitated and can no longer make medical decisions. Most directives include information regarding resuscitation or intubation, pain management, long-term care such as intravenous feeding, or even organ donation wishes.

Directives also usually designate someone as a “power of attorney for health care” which means that family member or trusted friend will be the person to make all health care decisions (based on the directive).
These directives typically apply to end-of-life issues but are also good to have in place in case of accidents or sudden illness. No matter what your age, it’s smart to have a directive on file so family members don’t have to make critical decisions during trying times. And by clearly spelling out care parameters, you can be sure your parent’s wishes are honored when they cannot speak for themselves.

An affordable way to write advance healthcare directives is to use Quicken WillMaker Plus from Nolo Press.

A difficult but well-worth it discussion.

Talking about this issue is never easy – after all this is a very delicate and emotionally-charged topic! But when approached with a respectful and caring attitude, everyone in your family will benefit. And once you’ve discussed all the issues, creating an Advance Health Care Directive is really quite simple and straightforward. Typically, you can just “fill in the blank” on a state-standard form, get it notarized, and file it with your medical facility.
Dealing with this issue is really one of the most caring things you can do for your parents. So, be brave . . . bite the bullet . . . and get the discussion going now. I’ll cover all the nitty-gritty details in my next post and help you get this job done quickly.

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver via Flickr


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