Whether you are in perfect health or managing an illness, now is a good time to talk about advance care planning. The advance care planning process is a time to reflect on your values and wishes and to tell others what kind of care you would want if you were at the end of your life and unable to speak for yourself.
Sharing your wishes for your end-of-life care is a process that happens through a series of conversations. That’s why the extraordinarily helpful end-of-life planning resource The Conversation Project is called The Conversation Project.
You can get started by having a conversation with your family about how you would want to live if your time were short. Do you want to be at home, or would you prefer to be in a hospital? Do you want your family with you, or would you prefer to be alone? Would you want to be kept alive artificially if there were no chance of recovery? These are big questions and there are no right answers, only answers that are right for you. You can't think of every possible scenario that might happen in the future, but by sharing your wishes with the people close to you, you enable them to speak for you should you become unable to speak for yourself.
Starting these conversations can be awkward, but once started you may be surprised that they are not conversations about death, but about how we want to live.
It's best to communicate your wishes for your end-of-life care in writing. This can be done with three documents: a health care proxy, a HIPAA authorization and a personal directive, or living will. These documents are separate from and in addition to your will and other estate planning documents.
Of course, the documents are just the delivery system to communicate your wishes. More important than the documents is the time you spend discerning what matters most to you and talking to your loved ones about it. If you need a framework to think about advanced care planning, contact us. We can get you started.
1. Health Care Proxy or Agent. This form names a person who can make medical decisions
for you if you were unable to make them yourself. Each state has different requirements for this form. Honoring Choices Massachusetts has an easy-to-use Health Care Proxy form.
2. HIPAA Authorization. Privacy laws protect your personal health information, but can also make it difficult for your health care proxy to view your medical records. A HIPAA authorization allows your health care proxy to see
your medical records. This link has a useful HIPAA authorization form.
3. Personal directive (living will). Although living wills are not legally binding in every state, they provide a guide for your Health Care Proxy and your medical team. The Conversation Project has an excellent workbook that helps focus on potential issues in serious illness care. The workbook also includes tips on how to have a conversation with people close to you about your wishes.
After you complete the workbook, and talk to your family, complete a personal directive form to document your wishes. Forms for personal directives that are valid in each of the 50 states can be found here. https://theconversationproject.org/nhdd/advance-care-planning/
For Massachusetts, The Conversation Project links to the form available from Honoring Choices. https://www.honoringchoicesmass.com/resources/5-ma-planning-documents/personal-directive/
Remember, these documents are not written in stone; you can change them at any time. Completing these three forms enables you to control your health care. Your life, your choice.
For information about other tools that can help you in your planning, check out our Blog.