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Make the Final Word Yours

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorDeath is an inevitable fact that most people find hard to contemplate and discuss with others. Yet, one of the best inheritances you can give your loved ones is a clear plan of what your choices are.  Advanced care planning is about making thoughtful decisions now to ensure others understand your wishes if you’re unable to speak for yourself.  Here are five key areas to focus on for having your say in what matters most to you.

One of the best inheritances you can give your loved ones is a clear plan of what your choices are.

End of life care, choosing a representative

The Health Care Proxy is a simple document, legally valid in Massachusetts, which allows you to name someone (an "agent") to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make or communicate those decisions.  You therefore need to provide your proxy with clear instructions as to what you do and do not want for end of life care.  You can find a Health Care Proxy form and directions at massmed.org.  

On the other hand, a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) form, is a medical document signed by both you and your health care provider, and is effective as soon as it is signed. For patients near the end of life in Massachusetts, MOLST is an official form which lets you discuss and document your choices for "life-sustaining treatments" — based on your own needs, preferences, and what is medically appropriate. It is recommended if you have a MOLST in place to also fill out a Health Care Proxy form to appoint your Health Care Agent.

Legal and financial matters

Bereft loved ones have enough to deal with emotionally and leaving financial matters in disarray puts an undue burden on family and can lead to tensions and disputes.  If you pass away without a will, there are laws that may dictate the allocations of your estate.  Drawing up a will with an attorney will uphold your wishes for the distribution of your money and possessions.  Be sure someone knows where your will and your advance directive documents are located.  

Organ donation

Consider donation of your organs to help another person, or help advance medical science.   If this is something you want to do, make sure you document your wishes, tell your family, and speak with your primary care provider.

How you would like to be remembered

Are there letters you want to write to loved ones? What would you like people to know before you die?  Do you want to finish a family tree, or family album?  The time to do this is while you are still able.  This is also a perfect opportunity to connect and collaborate with loved ones and pass along family history.

Funeral plans

Have you thought about whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated?  Perhaps you would like a green funeral rather than a more traditional one. Think about what kind of service you would like, and whether you want more of a celebration of your life rather than a conventional ceremony.  What readings or music would you like to have, and who would you like to be there?  Write down your preferences and share them with someone you trust, include these choices in your will, or make these arrangements directly with a funeral home. 

End of life planning will provide you with peace of mind, knowing those you love will be spared the need to make these hard decisions during their time of grief.  This deeply personal process will enable you to embrace the life you have lived and ensure your beliefs, values, and choices are honored.