With the school year behind us, it is time for many families to make preparations to send children away to college. This is always a special time, but after a COVID school year, the idea of being able to celebrate these milestones is more thrilling than ever.
If someone you love is about to go off to college and is over the age of eighteen (the age a child becomes a legal adult in Georgia) it’s important to be sure you have packed the most important thing in their college survival kit. The future is exciting and unknown, and no one is thinking about bad things that might happen.
But bad things do happen. People have accidents, or fall ill. If something happens to a young child, the parent or guardian has the legal right to make medical decisions. What most people don’t realize though, is that as soon as someone turns eighteen, under the law, that eighteen year old is an adult.
Under the federal HIPAA privacy laws, health care providers are prohibited from disclosing an adult patient’s private medical information, unless authorized by the court through a legal guardianship, or authorized by the adult in writing. It doesn’t matter if you are a relative, even if you are the mother or father.
In a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, an agent is named to make all health care decisions if the injured or ill adult is unable to communicate his wishes, and the agent is authorized under the HIPAA privacy laws to have access to all private medical information.
Without this important legal document, families find themselves in court, filing for guardianship. That process is expensive, delays access to needed medical information, and causes additional distress in a family already going through a difficult time.
The solution is simple. Before an eighteen year old heads off to college, or out of the family home to an apartment, give him the gift of knowing his family will still be able to take care of him if he needs help. Have him sign an Advance Directive for Health Care. Having the document won’t prevent tragedy from happening, but it will enable a young adult to know he’ll have the protection of those who love him quickly available if it is ever needed.