Do You Have a Health Care Proxy? National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16
According to Ben Franklin, there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Many of us put off our taxes until we have to do them. For healthcare decisions, last-minute is too late. This April do yourself and your family a favor: sit down together, have an advance care planning discussion, and complete your health care proxy. National Healthcare Decisions Day, held annually on April 16, is a day dedicated to educating families about the value of these conversations.
More than 70% of people lose the ability to make healthcare decisions at some point in their life. It’s not just when you’re old and sick; anyone can have a sudden illness, injury, or accident. In those moments, we need a trusted family member, friend, or other loved one to stand in our shoes and make medical decisions for us. Advance care planning is the process of planning for future medical care in case you cannot make decisions for yourself. In New York, you designate someone to make medical decisions for you by completing a health care proxy.
A health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you lose the ability to do so. Everyone 18 and older should have a family discussion and complete a health care proxy. Fortunately, the process is simple. You don’t need an attorney or a notary to do the form – just you and two witnesses (who are not your health care agents).
After you have the conversation with your family and designate a health care proxy, you may also want to complete a living will. A living will allows you to document specific wishes you may have about your medical care. This document is only put into effect if you have a terminal and irreversible condition. A living will is NOT a substitute for designating a health care proxy and having a meaningful conversation with your loved ones about your wishes.
Having these conversations can be hard, but fortunately there are lots of tools to help get the discussion started. This Advance Care Planning Booklet (PDF) will walk you through some things to consider during your family discussion and even provides the blank health care proxy and living will forms.
If you and your family need extra motivation, consider watching these videos of people from across New York sharing their stories about the importance of advance care planning.
Each person 18 and older needs to complete a health care proxy in case they lose the ability to make medical conditions. It’s called advance care planning for a reason. Don’t wait. Start your conversation today. More information about health care proxies and advance care planning can be found on CompassionAndSupport.org.
Last but not least, people who are seriously ill and near the end of life have an extra measure they can take to ensure their wishes are honored. These individuals can complete a MOLST form with their physician and healthcare team. MOLST stands for Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. MOLST is only appropriate for people who are very sick or near the end of life. A MOLST form tells medical professionals how you want to be treated RIGHT NOW. It is for current care – not future care. MOLST orders must be followed by all healthcare professionals.
If you would like to complete a MOLST form, start by speaking with your doctor. More information about New York’s MOLST is also available on CompassionAndSupport.org.