If You Are Hospitalized During the State of Emergency

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

The COVID-19 virus has upended all of our lives, none more so than infected family members who need hospitalization. Recently, I asked attorney Alexis Levitt if I could circulate her advice to clients about being hospitalized during this state of emergency. As you know, visitors are not allowed to accompany patients into hospital settings.

Here are her suggestions in how to prepare for that possibility. I’ve added a couple of notations in italics and wrote a separate post about how I prepared my family. As we know, it’s not sufficient to follow this advice; we also need to talk with our family, especially our healthcare agent and financial power of attorney.

From Attorney Levitt,

I hope you are all staying home (unless you are an essential worker). I want to share some important points to keep in mind if you are hospitalized during the state of emergency. These apply whether you are hospitalized for COVID-19 specifically, or for any other reason.

1. Keep your Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Statement, and Medication List at your fingertips.

(a) If you are a client of ours, then we enrolled you in DocuBank. Take five minutes now to update your medication list. (Really. Five minutes. I updated mine recently, it was very easy.) If you do not use DocuBank, print out hard copies and put them into a plastic sleeve or envelope.

(b) Keep copies on your phone. You can save the documents to your Google Drive, you can simply keep them attached to an email, whatever you like, so long as they are accessible to you on your phone.

(c) Keep copies on the back of your front door or on your refrigerator. Many first responders will look in these places for emergency medical papers.

2. Advocate to be coded as “inpatient” rather than “under observation.” If you are in the hospital and then transferred to a rehab, how you were coded at the hospital will make a big difference in payment source for the rehab stay.

3. If you are transferred to rehab and told that you will be paying privately, call us (your attorney). Under the State of Emergency, some of the usual coverage triggers for payment for rehab have changed. Nursing home billing offices could be – quite understandably – overwhelmed and perhaps not updated on the temporary changes. We can help.

4. Call us (your attorney) if you need a guardianship or conservatorship. For anyone who has not signed a health care proxy or a power of attorney, the hospital (or rehab) may tell you that you need a guardian or conservator. This is a court proceeding handled by an attorney.

(a) It’s possible that the hospital or rehab attorney will handle the guardianship and/or conservatorship for you, for free. If that is the case, be sure to check in with them as to who they are naming to act as the guardian or conservator, and, if you are not happy with their choice, advocate for naming someone you prefer.

(b) If the hospital or rehab tells you that you need to find your own attorney (or if you are not comfortable using their attorney), then please call our office. This is something that we can handle for you.

Reprinted with permission.

Power of Attorney

by Jan Simpson

My father called for my help, his voice laced with worry and regret. That morning he had learned that the pain in his side, a pain that he thought was caused from a touch of pneumonia, was lung cancer. After hearing the news, he contacted his attorney and then he called me. He didn’t want to talk about the cancer, in fact, he didn’t want to talk about himself. He wanted to know if I would be willing to help my mother “pay bills and such.” He had asked his lawyer to draft a legal document called a durable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney is one of two important legal documents used to help support the life of an ailing parent or loved one (the second is called a health care proxy or a health care power of attorney). A durable power of attorney gives the person named broad power to manage someone’s financial assets. With that document in place, I could pay my parents’ bills, sell their house, take out loans, access their safe deposit box, and conduct any number of financial transactions on their behalf. Unlike a standard power of attorney document, the durable power of attorney gave me that authority even if he or my mother were declared mentally incapacitated.

My father knew that he and my mother needed support through the journey that lay ahead of them. Yet I heard in his voice that this decision, to ask me to assume a durable power of attorney for him and for her, was a difficult one.

Most of us prepare a will somewhat unemotionally; we know that death, like taxes, is inevitable. But giving an adult child the authority to make financial decisions is fraught with emotion, an admission that one’s ability is declining. It can be difficult to decide who is trustworthy, available, and able to make decisions in your stead. In a large family, parents may hesitate to choose one family member over another, not wanting to hurt feelings. In other families, parents may not feel comfortable asking any child to assume that level of control. And then, there is simply denial.

I felt awkward on that first Friday morning I sat at their kitchen table to pay the bills. I tried to dampen my discomfort by telling amusing stories about my children. My mother made a pot of tea, my father worked on a crossword puzzle. We silently acknowledged the change in our relationship and did our best to ignore its implications. Weeks turned into months, months into a year and I came to appreciate fully my father’s decision, for my parents were free to focus on their medical ailments and to enjoy time with their grandchildren without worry about “bills and such.” Equally important, I had a reason to spend a few hours with them alone each week, laughing and joking and relishing our time together.

Over cups of tea, I learned how my parents managed their household. I knew where their money was invested, where the insurance policies were stored, how their pension was distributed, and where their accountant lived. When my father passed away two years later, it took only a few months to transition all of the paperwork seamlessly for my mother. She would live for four more years without concern about money matters.

Have your parents or older loved ones prepared a durable power of attorney? Have you?

©Circle of Life Partners™