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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

It’s your choice, it’s your care

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia, Executive Director of LifePathWho’s your agent? As a competent adult (age 18 and older), you have the right to make your own health care choices. It is not an eventuality which one often thinks about, but it is really important to plan ahead in case at some point you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself.

Though it may seem a daunting task, it is a simple, three-step process: explore, plan, and connect.

First, choose a person you trust to be your agent. Think it through for yourself. If you have a serious injury, accident, or medical procedure and are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, even for a short time, who do you want to talk with your doctors and make decisions on your behalf? Choose a trusted person to be your “agent.” Talk with your agent about what’s important to you and the kind of care you want and do not want.

Second, after you choose your health care agent, the person is “appointed” through your signature and the completion of a Health Care Proxy, which is a simple legal document. Any valid Health Care Proxy or the Honoring Choices MA Health Care Proxy Instructions and Form (available in 8 languages) may be used. As a reminder, a spouse or parent does not automatically have the legal authority to make health care decisions on your behalf unless appointed in a Health Care Proxy. A second reminder is to check on who your agent is if you filed a health care proxy some time ago. Be sure that you still wish the same person to represent your interests in the event you can’t make health care decisions for yourself.

Third, put your Health Care Proxy into action. Make the final and important connection. Once you have completed a Health Care Proxy, keep the original and give a copy to your agent. In addition, give a copy of your Health Care Proxy to your care providers to place in your medical record so they will know how to contact your agent.

Organizations all around Massachusetts have formed a coalition to raise awareness and encourage their members and patients to take the three steps to affirmatively decide who will be their health care agent. The Honoring Choices coalition brings together legal, medical, and community partners to promote the importance of thinking about the question of “Who’s Your Agent?” There is concise a set of FAQs, “Things to Know About a Health Care Proxy,” answering some common questions about the Health Care Proxy concept and document. Take the time to explore, plan, and make the connections with your agent and medical provider to take care of this important piece of personal business.