Child Headed to College this Fall? Here’s Something to Consider

Healthcare Proxy for college Kent County Grand RapidsHealthcare Proxy for college Kent County Grand Rapids

Medical Realities for Parents of College Students

This article was submitted by local mom, Sharon Spungen, and is based on her personal experiences.

No Files for You

As a parent, I am not always as ahead of the game as I mean to be.

It’s true. So when I realized the weekend before our oldest son left for college registration that I was going to need his immunization records, the realities of what it means when your kid turns 18 hit me like a ton of bricks.

I logged in to the patient portal at our pediatrician’s office thinking I would be able to quickly and easily pull up his health form and print it out (or at least request it). Lo and behold, when I logged in, my son’s record did no appear.

At first, I thought it was a mistake. I clicked around the site trying to figure out where the kid’s record had gone. And because it was a Sunday, I couldn’t call in. I remember having the passing thought of, is this because he turned 18? That couldn’t be – he’s still my FAMILY!

On Monday morning the doctor’s office confirmed that not only was my son removed from my portal, but I couldn’t even request the form for him without his permission (and involvement).

Options for Parents

My son’s college has a SUPER HELPFUL Facebook page for parents, where I learned about getting a healthcare proxy agreement in place before he left for school.

My next move was to contact Catherine Hodge Jacobs at Cottrell and Jacobs (a mom I knew through my son’s high school, who also happens to be an attorney in Ada) asking, “Help, what forms do we need?”

Catherine was awesome.

We met with her for about half an hour. She explained in great detail to my 18-year-old all the reasons why he should have this form in place. She covered all the things that “could” happen to him and asked him who he would want making decisions on his behalf – and the limits on the decision-making power that signing this proxy agreement would be giving to us as parents.

Naturally, he was not as interested in having his parents maintain decision-making authority over his life anymore… but he did see the value in having us be the ones who would be there to assist if he could not speak for himself. A terrifying thought for this Mama Bird, but again, needed.

Get Your Own Ducks in a Row

I learned from Catherine that without a proxy agreement in place even between spouses, there is no guarantee that my wishes would be honored in the event something horrible happened to my husband.

This was news to me. I know as adults we should have had wills and formal proxy agreements in place but honestly we had never taken that leap. (We now have an appointment with Catherine to get it taken care of ASAP.)

After getting through the paperwork, she explained that we would need to have “the talk” with my son about end-of-life decisions and beliefs so we could properly represent his wishes if he were unable to advocate for himself. Not the funnest subject, but quite a necessary one. (And you thought the sex talk was hard….)

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Healthcare Proxies, For Free

Before your 18+-year-old heads off to college or parts unknown, be sure that you have the Healthcare Proxy and HIPAA paperwork properly filled out so you aren’t literally the last person anyone thinks to contact.

Without it, realistically, you might be. And while you might be able to find a form or two on the internet, if you want to avoid any legal issues or troubles later, it’s definitely worth finding a reputable estate lawyer such as Catherine. Best of all, this is a service she provides at no charge to 18-year-olds living in Kent County.

To reach Catherine, call 616-723-8255 or reach out via email.

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