Advance Directives

Provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones with advance planning

Communicate Your Health Care and End-of-Life Wishes

Most people don’t want to burden their family with tough decisions. Yet few talk about end-of-life planning with their loved ones. It’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s also vitally important. 

Learn more about your options and how to start that conversation with your loved ones.

Advance Directives

An advance directive communicates your goals and wishes for the care you’d like to receive if you become too sick to make health care decisions on your own. You can outline in advance the kinds of treatments you do or don’t want.

Types of Advance Directives

There are different kinds of advance directives.

Health Care Proxy

A proxy is a person you appoint to make treatment decisions for you. The proxy becomes your voice when you can’t speak for yourself. This person is your medical power of attorney.

In Massachusetts, if you cannot make or express your own health care decisions, a completed health care proxy form is the only legally binding document related to your health care. That’s why it’s important to make plans and complete a proxy form in advance. 

Living Will

This legal document tells your family and doctor the treatment you want as you near the end of your life or can no longer speak for yourself. A living will also is called a treatment directive.

Getting Started

You can get forms for a health care proxy or living will in a doctor’s office, hospital, law office, state or local office for the aging, senior center or nursing home. You also can find these forms online. Once you complete the forms, provide copies to your family and doctors.

As you fill out your advance directive, think about different treatment options. Talk to family members about your wishes for hospice or palliative care.

Points to consider include whether you want to:

  • Be fed or get fluids through a tube if you can’t eat or drink.
  • Be on a machine that cleans your blood if your kidneys stop working.
  • Be on a machine that pumps air into your lungs through a tube if you can’t breathe on your own.
  • Receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops.
  • Take medicines to treat serious infections.

These are tough choices to make. You don’t have to make them alone. Take your time. Share your questions or concerns with a member of your health care team, including your doctor, nurse, social worker or chaplain.

Advance Planning Resources

Learn more about choosing a health care proxy and download the Massachusetts Health Care Proxy Form.

Learn more about advance directives, end-of-life planning, health care proxy, hospice care, medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST) and palliative care from the Know Your Choices: A Guide for Patients with Serious and Advancing Illness. To download the guide in other languages, visit the Massachusetts End of Life Care site.

For more information, contact our patient information office at 617-499-5031.