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Take Charge of Your Healthcare

April 12, 2024

Emily Lemire, LICSW, Manager of Oncology Social Work and Palliative Care at Tufts Medicine Lowell General Hospital, discusses the importance of advance directives and the forms and resources to help you with care planning.

National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16 is a nationwide initiative that encourages adults of all ages to make important health decisions and put them in writing. This way, your wishes are known to your family and healthcare team in the event of a health crisis and you are unable to speak for yourself.

Emily Lemire, LICSW, Manager of Oncology Social Work and Palliative Care at Tufts Medicine Lowell General Hospital, stresses the importance of having a health care proxy in place along with the correct documents for your state. This is important whether you are 18 and healthy or 75 with health issues. These documents, called advance directives, are easy to complete and revise.

"We often don't speak about advance directives until we are in crisis, but it's really being mindful that we are captains of our own ship. These forms bring peace of mind to yourself and your family to ensure that your wishes are carried out. I encourage all my patients to review these documents every year, as situations in families may change or your wishes may evolve."

Here are the top five things to know about Advance Care Planning:

  1. What is a healthcare proxy?
    A healthcare proxy is a person over age 18 who can make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to communicate these yourself. This would be a person that you choose in advance, with whom you trust to act out your medical directives and wishes in the event you no longer can.
  2. What is MOLST?
    MOLST stands for Massachusetts Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. It is typically initiated when you have a serious or life-limiting illness and should be a fluid discussion between you and your care team member as needs may change. MOLST forms are medical orders, which are different from advance directives.
  3. Where can I find the forms I need?
    Please visit the Health Care Proxy and Medical Decision Making page on our website for more information
    Forms are also available for all states on the Caring Info website
  4. Do I need to have them notarized or completed by an attorney?
    In Massachusetts, you do not need to have the healthcare proxy forms notarized or completed by an attorney. Massachusetts has a standard healthcare proxy form that you can get from your local hospital or print from home. Having two witnesses sign in your presence (that are not who you designate) makes it legal in Massachusetts. In New Hampshire, a healthcare proxy requires notarization.
  5. What is a living will?
    A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation.

It's important to note that living wills are not considered legal documents in Massachusetts and do not have to be honored in medical settings. MOLST forms are the preferred and honored medical and legally supported documentation to assist in directing your care choices.

In New Hampshire, the healthcare proxy form is the New Hampshire Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and you must also complete a New Hampshire Living Will.

Additional resources for setting healthcare goals:
Advance Care Planning Worksheets
Setting Healthcare Goals

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