Do You Have a Health-Care Power of Attorney?

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An apology probably should be offered here at the outset, because some of you may not have given any thought to what I’m about to mention. And you would prefer, especially if you have even a hint of an obsessive-compulsive nature, not to have thought about this at all.

So with advance apology, here’s my recounting of a bothersome and frequent dilemma. The latest occurrence was on a Wednesday evening on my way to church when I pulled into a convenience store for a soft drink. As I walked in, I said a friendly hello to the employee behind the counter, who I noticed was counting out change from the cash register.

As I headed toward the cooler, it struck me what was about to happen. And that probably gives you a tremendous clue to my compulsiveness, that I was already anticipating what was about to happen. Unfortunately, I was right. With a 20-ounce Diet Coke bottle in hand, I walked to the front counter just as the cashier finished dumping a roll of change into the register.

And then she did it. She reached across the counter and – with those same little fingers that had been counting out no-telling-how-many germ-infested pennies, nickels and dimes – grabbed and wrapped her fist around the top of the Coke bottle. She swiped it in front of the electronic scanner, pushed the bottle back toward me and smiled as she told me what I owed.

At that point, I didn’t even hear her. I just pushed two dollar bills her way, retrieved my change and walked to the car, all the while calculating the thousands of little invisible germs now swirling around the top of that bottle. I could imagine them doing little rain-like dances, just waiting for a pair of lips to come their way so they could pounce with glee.

Thanks to technology’s ability to help us do things more swiftly and efficiently, buying a soft drink has taken on a new twist. I’ve tried all kind of tricks – trying to scan the bottle myself, or holding the top to force the employee to grab only the bottom part. I usually end up in some type of awkward tug-of-war and begrudgingly give in. Still, although I’ll never convince you now, I’m not a germaphobe, just picky about certain things.

Which brings me to a completely different – and, finally, important – subject. There are things about which we should be very careful. Germs on a soft drink bottle probably don’t fit that category, but health care and health-care decisions do. And occasionally, folks find themselves in situations where those decisions are taken out of their own hands. We at TRH Health Plans, providing health-care coverage to nearly 190,000 Tennesseans, unfortunately see situations daily where someone becomes incapacitated and is no longer able (or temporarily unable) to make decisions. Whether a middle-aged man following a horrific injury or an elderly person whose body has outlived her mind, each is difficult.

As the arm of the Tennessee Farm Bureau charged with helping our members with health-care issues and coverage, we encourage you to consider what might happen if your family encounters such a tragic situation. Do you have a Health-care Power of Attorney to allow someone to make health-care decisions for you if you cannot? Or if you have a General Durable Power of Attorney enabling someone to handle your personal affairs, does it incorporate health-care provisions?

I’m not an attorney (if I was I’d sue someone for transmitting germs to me via soft drink), but I would encourage you to think about this issue. A Health-care Power of Attorney can protect you when you can’t make decisions, and can grant authority for someone to access protected health-care information on your behalf. Talk to your personal attorney because individual situations can be varied – one size does not fit all. See what you need to be prepared, just in case.

As for phobias about germs on a bottle, we’ll just have to work through that on our own.

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