I was very young when my grandfather began to reach the end of his life, but I could see how those really close to him began to take out and pore over old things he had: honors he had received in the war, a touching letter written by his colleagues about his work as a politician—these are the kinds of tokens that add narrative detail to your loved one’s life. During such an emotionally dense period, it can also feel paradoxical to find yourself facing a seemingly unending list of clinical and emotionless paperwork to take care of in regard to your loved one’s health. Although it can be difficult, maintaining an organized online database of end-of-life documents is vital to ensure that your loved one’s medical preferences and funeral wishes are upheld and their finances are kept in order.
Which Documents Do I Need?
One of the biggest paperwork challenges can be sorting through which forms are important to have on hand, and differentiating things like the Advanced Directive from the DNR. To help cut the stress and clear up the confusion about end-of-life paperwork, here’s a guide to the different forms that patients and caregivers may need to have completed:
- POLST (also known as a prehospital Advance Directive or physician orders for life-sustaining treatment) – this form is for seriously ill patients to express their beliefs and values towards care. It can prevent extraordinary measures of care and allow the patient to have a natural death.
- Advance Directive – The advance directive is not necessarily for the severely ill; it is a document that expresses an individual’s preferences for end-of-life care to avoid uncertainty when the time comes.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) – this form prevents CPR or advanced cardiac life support from being performed against the patient’s wishes.
Other personal forms could include:
- Information about home and business finances, including bills and vendors
- Account information and passwords
- Wills, Trusts, and Insurance
- Funeral Wishes
Forms that empower caregivers to carry out their loved one’s wishes include:
- Durable Power of Attorney – lets you manage your loved one’s finances if they become unable, or would prefer your assistance.
- Healthcare Proxy – lets you make healthcare decisions for your loved one if they become unable to make and execute those decisions.
- Medical Information Release – grants your loved one’s physician permission to share their healthcare information with you.
- Living Will – lets your loved one choose the type of treatment they want to receive for a terminal illness.
Before choosing any platform for online documentation, be sure to look at the platform’s HIPAA notices and make sure that all information is being stored safely. That’s why it’s good to sign up for a secure platform, rather than just setting up a Google Doc or faxing forms to family or healthcare providers. By working with a HIPAA-compliant sharing platform, you can make sure your information is in the right hands.
Make Your Plans Known with Online Sharing Platforms
Of course, even the most well-laid plans can fail to be enacted if they’re not made available and properly distributed across the (often sprawling) healthcare continuum of different providers and agencies. Before the advent of cloud-based document sharing tools, your loved one’s documentation of medical preferences may have consisted of a pink POLST form taped to the fridge and a handwritten list of personal financial information. Caregivers often faced challenges with making sure that different healthcare providers received copies of medical preference paperwork. It’s a different world today thanks to several healthcare information technology startups that have created online databases and document-sharing platforms to ensure that the plans you lay are actually accessible to healthcare providers.
Online platforms for documentation include:
- Everplans – This was actually the first digital platform designed for creating end-of-life plans and storing them online. One thing that the platform does really nicely is guide users to which forms they actually need to have: everything from insurance, to DNR forms, to funeral preferences. In addition to helping people navigate end of life paperwork, Everplans also has an additional paid service that will execute a loved one’s wishes.
- Vynca – Vynca ensures that the plans your loved one lays are actually accessible to healthcare providers. Vynca digitizes the POLST forms so that you and your provider can access them in case of emergency.
- MyDirectives – This platform creates one multifaceted directive to document healthcare preferences. It also stores contact information, as well as photos and personal information to help healthcare providers know more about their patient. This information is stored in a database that’s accessible 24-7 to you, your loved one, and their healthcare provider.
Getting Organized with Cloud Storage
Having the end-of-life conversation with your loved ones can be a positive experience that affirms your loved one’s life choices and lets them take charge of their future. Planning ahead and establishing a secure digitized solution for medical records can alleviate stress and prevent unwanted approaches to care down the road, and with new cloud-based databases making it easier to record and share end-of-life paperwork, you can feel free to actually spend time enjoying your final moments with your loved one. These cloud solutions will help you stay organized, and healthcare providers will have much easier, 24-7 access to your loved one’s medical preference forms.
IOA offers counseling and other resources for seniors and their caregivers. If you’d like to learn more about planning end-of-life paperwork, contact us today and we’d be happy to offer our assistance.