When notarizing for patients in a medical facility, you must follow all state laws regardless of any unique circumstances. Your clients must have proper ID, be cognizant and they must be able to sign their name or make a mark. It can be daunting working in a hospital, hospice care unit, or in an adult living facility. Some of your signers will be hooked up to machines, in pain, or facing end-of-life decisions. Clearly, this job is not for the faint of heart.
Patience and compassion will go a long way when working under these conditions. Notarizations will likely take more time and include additional hurdles. Sometimes senior citizens do not have a current ID. Instead, a credible witness or witnesses may be used to identify your patient. Some hospitals may not allow a Notary to use hospital staff as a witness because they consider it a conflict of interest. If a medical facility doesn’t have this policy in place, remember the credible witness or witnesses must personally know the document signer. I would venture to say this would not be likely in most cases. But for someone who has been in long term care and knows the staff well, it’s possible. Otherwise, the patient should be notified in advance that he or she must provide appropriate witnesses.
A Notary should talk to their signer to make sure they are cognizant. If a patient can carry on a normal conversation without causing any doubts in the mind of the Notary, it’s safe to notarize. Make sure your signer is completely focused on what they are doing. If there are any distractions, eliminate them. For example, you might have to ask a talkative family member to leave or ask for privacy from hospital staff during the process.
A Signature-by-Mark notarization can be used for patients who are unable to sign their name. As with the credible witness, two additional witnesses will be needed. There are multiple reasons why a person cannot sign their name. If the reason happens to be because they cannot easily hold a pen, be prepared with a clipboard and arthritis pens designed specifically for this purpose.
In the state of California, an ombudsman (a patient advocate) is required when a patient is signing Advance Health Care Directive. The ombudsman’s job is to witness the signature of the patient and make sure he or she understands the contents of the document and are signing willingly.
In order to work in these conditions, empathy is a must. A Notary should be aware of the difficulty of each patient’s situation and act with as much care as possible for a smooth notarization.