Okay, so, you are feeling good about yourself, as a parent, because you got your “child” all the way through high school and got a college or university to take him or her for another four years. In fact, you even might have had not an entirely tortuous time with your “child,” heading out and picking up bedding and other things to get the dorm room set up. Now, you think you can sit back and relax because you protected them for all those years and you did what you needed to do to. Not so fast.
Has your “child” reached his or her 18th birthday and attending college in another state? If yes, what would happen if your “child” was injured and unable to consider treatment options or make medical decisions? Your “child” is an adult, in the eyes of the Law. You no longer have the legal right to make those decisions or to instruct health care providers to provide certain care or treatment – or to stop or withhold certain medical treatment.
College-age “children” are injured and some sustain catastrophic injuries while at school. Nearly three quarters of college-age students own or have access to cars. In addition, the college years are a time of testing and/or redefining personal limits. That can be as ordinary as pushing the limits of how much sleep is needed and still be able to function, drinking, dares, pranks. Your “child” could also just be walking across campus or through town – where other “children” are distracted drivers and also unfamiliar with their new settings. If your “child” is an athlete, there is even more reason to do more for your “child” before he or she heads off for college. Recent studies by the NCAA and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association found that 1 of approximately 12,500 college athletes are injured severely enough each year to miss at least a day of practice or competition. And in 2009, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reported that cheerleading at the college level caused over 70% of college-aged catastrophic injuries or fatalities. This last point is important, because, we, as parents, don’t know everything (no matter what we have repeatedly told our kids).
Without the ability to predict whether or when your “child” will be injured while at college, or how severe that injury will be, you need to prepare for it. That is what our “children” have come to rely upon us to do – to be prepared for them. If your college bound “child” – who is also 18 years old or older, does not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Durable General Power of Attorney, and a Living Will, it is unlikely that you (the parent) would be able to make health care decisions or handle their financial affairs if an injury made them unable to consider treatment options and make decisions for themselves. Without these documents, you would have to go into the probate court, in the state where your “child” is going to college, to be appointed a guardian, which takes much more time and money than getting those documents created before something happens. Getting appointed as a guardian also keeps you from being able to grieve and “process” what has happened and keeps you from “being there” for your “child” when it matters most. So, get these documents created for your “child.” If something happens, you’ll take comfort knowing that decisions can be made and carried out, without delay. If nothing happens, you’ll have the greater satisfaction of knowing that you did your best for them.