A friend of mine was recently told by an attorney that EMTs are trained to look in the refrigerator/freezer for the healthcare directives and powers of attorney (POA). She asked me, ”Have you heard this? If so, why is it so?”
Upon receiving this question, I thought, that's silly. Why would anyone look in the fridge for important papers?! After asking my fireman-husband, and confirming with two other medical responders (from different agencies/municipalities), turns out it’s true!
Reason being, when responding to a medical call, emergency responders need to assess the patient’s condition. They begin by asking what the patient has had to eat or drink recently, and/or if they are diabetic. This in turn, often leads them to looking in the refrigerator. Looking in the patient’s refrigerator tells them a lot about the patient (do they have good, healthy food or is it mostly junk food and/or alcohol), also they can check to see what, if any, medications they have in there. This is what has led to the practice of storing of important papers such as, do not resuscitate (DNRs), healthcare directives with powers of attorney (POA), and other medical instructions such as POLST, in or on the refrigerators.
Additionally, the medical responders emphasized that if you have a specialized situation requiring specific action, it’s highly recommended that medical history and heath care directives be placed in a location that is easily visible to first responders (commonly the refrigerator). However, the medical directives should be the original and, depending on the situation, a durable power of attorney does not really relinquish first responders from initiating or continuing life saving measures which is why it is important to have directives on hand.
Who knew?! In any case this fun, yet critically important, tip reminds us of the importance of having our wishes expressed in the form of legal documents, such as the health care directive and POAs, as well as all your estate planning papers, executed and properly stored.