You’re Power of Attorney for your Uncle Jamal. You get a call that he’s been in an accident. When you get to the hospital, it’s obvious he’ll never be able to take care of himself after he’s discharged. What should you do first? In what order should you do whatever it is you’re supposed to do?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some ideas:

  • Authority. Prove to hospital officials and providers that you have legal authority to make decisions for your uncle by providing them with a certified copy of his Power of Attorney (POA).
  • His wishes. If he has an advance directive, give it to hospital officials and providers, and then be sure it’s entered into his medical record and that providers comply with it.
  • Paying for health care. Locate Uncle Jamal’s health insurance cards and give the information to the hospital’s billing department.
  • Secure his home and vehicle. Check on whether his home is locked, someone is picking up his mail and newspapers, watering his plants, and caring for his pets. Empty the garbage cans and throw away food that will spoil within a few days. Also, be sure his vehicle is parked in a safe place and is locked.
  • Plan for post-discharge. Work with hospital personnel (social workers and discharge staff) to find the medical care and/or housing Uncle Jamal will need when he leaves the hospital. You may also need to start the Medicaid application process.

Has this happened to you? What did you do first? What do you know now that you wish you’d known when this was happening to you and your loved one?