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Advance Care Planning

This term refers to any instructions about your health care that you prepare in advance of getting sick. There are many different types. A health care proxy is one type. A living will is another.

The Health Care Proxy is the most important type of advance directive. It is a simple legal document that allows you to name someone you know and trust to make health care decisions for you if, for any reason and at any time, you become unable to make or communicate those decisions. It does not require an attorney to fill out. We encourage everyone 18 years and older to have a Health Care Proxy identified and recorded in the medical record.

Here is a link to print out your own form.

The living will is a type of advance directive in which you outline specific medical treatments that are to be taken under specific circumstances. It can be helpful as a way to express your medical care preferences, but it cannot possibly cover every question that might arise about your medical situation, and it cannot convey exactly how you might feel in a given circumstance. (That is why having a health care proxy is so important.)

A durable power of attorney is another type of arrangement you can make that names someone who can act on your behalf regarding financial, legal, and other matters. A website that encourages that essential conversation with your loved ones about what you want or they want for end-of-life wishes. It offers a free downloadable “Starter Kit” as a useful guide to help get your thoughts together as you prepare for this worthwhile conversation.


Massachusetts developed a form to help convey one’s wishes at the end of life. Called the MOLST (which stands for Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment), it eventually will take the place of the Comfort Care/DNR Verification form. While the actual form is considered medical orders, you can view a copy of it following this link. If you have any questions or want to know if this form is right for you, ask your health care provider.