From the Council on Aging: Advance Care Planning

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Hello and Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a safe and wonderful holiday. As we enter a new year, many of us think about creating a new year’s resolution; a goal we set to achieve for the upcoming year ahead.

While there are many meaningful goals we can set for 2021, with the uncertainty of this past year, a good new year’s resolution goal to set for this upcoming year is advance care planning.

What does it mean? This is a personal plan that is made regarding your healthcare decisions should you one day be unable to make them.

It’s planning for the “what ifs” in life. This includes options for life-sustaining treatment, choices of treatment if you were to receive a life-limiting diagnosis, creating a living will, appointing someone to make the decisions if you are unable to, and any other aspects that are important to you.

These are important discussions to have with loved ones, as well as putting it into writing. It puts your mind at ease to know you’ll receive the care you want and allows your family to know they followed the decisions you would have made.

Here are a few options you can start with:

Massachusetts Health Care Proxy & Personal Directive

  • A healthcare proxy is the person you designate to make healthcare decisions should you be unable to make them yourself.
  • This is to be filled out in front of two witnesses to sign with you. However, your designated proxy cannot be one of the witnesses.
  • This is an important first step, but leaves out additional information regarding the kind of care you desire. For this, it is important to have conversations with your loved ones and the person you have designated as your healthcare proxy, as well as fill out a personal directive/living will. While not legally binding in Massachusetts, it gives your healthcare agent a better idea of the kind of care you are looking for to better advocate your wishes. You can then give this information to your healthcare provider who should additionally help you with deciding/filling out forms related to comfort care, resuscitation requests, and life-sustaining treatment requests should you choose to do so. This could also lead to important conversations about your end of life wishes with your physician.

Massachusetts Durable Power of Attorney

  • This is a legal document that can be filled out, where you decide who you trust to manage your finances if you are no longer able to make decisions.
  • You can choose the level of authority the person has in regards to your finances
  • It is recommended that you work with an attorney to assist you with deciding what powers and instructions to give to this person.

Five Wishes

  • This document was created for people to state their wishes that go beyond immediate healthcare needs. They explore personal, medical, spiritual, and legal wishes.
  • In the state of Massachusetts, once completed and signed by yourself and two witnesses, it becomes a legal document that can be distributed to your loved ones and your healthcare providers to use if it’s needed.
  • This document goes beyond areas other than your designated healthcare agent or life sustaining treatment wishes. It includes areas such as types of comfort you do or do not want, how you want people to treat you, what you want your loved ones to know, and more.
  • They have additional resources for how to start these conversations with loved ones
  • Each document is currently $5.00 and is available in twenty-seven languages. If you are unsure if this is the right document for you, there is a sample available to view online before purchasing.
  • In partnership with Aging with Dignity, they have a toll-free hotline for further assistance with advance care planning. You can call them at 888-594-7437

These are a few of the many options when working on advance care planning. If you are interested in starting this process, have any questions or would like to receive more information, including where to access documents, please contact Danika or Anna at the COA at 781-275-6825.


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