Name a Healthcare Proxy

Aging Steward Health Care

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Plan for life’s unexpected twists by naming a health care proxy and having advance care planning discussions

Life can change in a blink of an eye. One serious accident or unexpected illness can turn your world upside down. That’s why a health care proxy and MOLST form are critical when health care decisions need to be made. Thinking about the type of medical care you would want in the wake of an unfortunate life event is not only important for you, but for your loved ones. They may be left to make difficult decisions on your behalf during an extremely emotional and stressful time.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning includes discussion and decisions about future health care treatment.  All people are encouraged to complete a health care proxy.  This form designates a health care decision maker for times when the patient cannot communicate their health wishes.  For people with chronic serious or progressive illness, a medical order for life sustaining treatment (MOLST) form might be used to clearly designate specific care wishes.

“Choosing a health care agent is one of the most important things you can do to advocate for yourself. Your chosen agent should be someone you trust implicitly to be able to articulate your decisions when you cannot speak for yourself,” said Dr. Marcy Carty, at Good Samaritan Medical Center. “It is critical that you discuss your goals, values and the quality of life trade-offs you would be willing to make with your health care agent.  This helps to ensure that your preferences are honored.”

Understanding a Health Care Proxy

If a person is not capable of making medical decisions (e.g. because they are unconscious or due to advanced dementia), it is their “health care agent” who is authorized to make medical decisions on their behalf.  A health care proxy, which designates a person’s health care agent, should be filled out by adults, age 18 and older, who are healthy or sick.

A health care proxy is a legal document and is filled out by the person naming their health care agent and two witnesses of the person’s choice. No doctor, lawyer or other “professional” is required to fill out this form. The form stays with the person and copies of it should be given to health care providers, health care agents, or others. The health care agent and other caregivers/loved ones should know where to find the form and what the person would want in certain life-threatening situations.

What is MOLST?

The MOLST form is for anyone of any age (including children) with an advanced illness, which may include a life-threatening disease or injury, chronic disease, dementia, or medical frailty.  

MOLST is a “medical order” from a clinician (physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) to other health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, EMTs) of written instructions outlining medical treatments to attempt or not attempt to sustain life based on a patient’s own preferences and wishes.

What is the process for filling out a MOLST form?

A clinician will talk to a patient about “advance care planning” – the person’s health status, prognosis, personal values and goals of care, and the potential benefits and problems of treatments. This discussion may lead to filling out a MOLST form if one is medically indicated and desired by the patient.

After a MOLST form has been signed by both parties, the patient keeps the MOLST form in a place where it is easy to locate (e.g. on the refrigerator, beside the bed or on the door), and it should be carried with them outside the home. Copies of MOLST forms are also valid and should be given to the person’s health care agent and primary care provider.

Steps you can take now

  • Print and sign a health care proxy form
  • Provide a copy of your health care proxy form to your assigned health care agent, family, friends and doctor
  • If you are a patient with an advanced illness or injury talk to your doctor about MOLST

Although talking to your loved ones about end-of-life care is not easy, planning ahead for life’s unexpected twists can help make an emotional time a little less stressful. In the end, advance and medical directives provide everyone peace of mind.

Learn more about MOLST or if you need help finding a doctor, visit the Steward DoctorFinder™ or call 1-800-488-5959.
*Source: www.molst-ma.org.

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.