What Patients and Families Can Do
There are several things that you can do to help make sure that your family, friends and health care team understand what type of care you would want if you were to become very sick or be near the end of your life. You can also help your loved ones take these important steps.
1. Choose a Health Care Proxy
This may be the most important single step that you can take to ensure that you are cared for the way that you want. By choosing a Health Care Proxy and completing an official Proxy form, you are selecting someone to be your voice if you are ever unable to make or express health care decisions for yourself. Visit our Health Care Proxy page to download the Proxy form, watch a video on why this is so important, and get answers to frequently asked questions.
2. Talk with Your Proxy (and Other Loved Ones) About What Matters to You
Once you have completed a Proxy form, be sure to give a copy of it to your Proxy. Also, be sure to talk with this person - and other family and friends — about what you would or would not want to have happen were you to get very sick. For your Proxy to be your voice, he/she needs to understand your wishes and worries. It may not be easy to have these conversations, but they are very important and there are many resources to help you. BIDMC's one-page Conversation Planning Worksheet and The Conversation Project's Conversation Starter Kit can help you get started, and you can also ask your health care team for help.
3. Give a Copy of the Health Care Proxy Form to Your Health Care Team
Make sure that your primary care physician (PCP) and any specialists you see regularly have a copy of your Health Care Proxy form. You should feel free to ask them to include your Proxy information — and, if possible, the form itself — in your electronic medical record.
4. Talk with Your Health Care Provider About What Matters to You
In order for your health care providers to understand your wishes, communication is very important. Some health care providers will start the conversation with you, and others may wait for you to bring it up. Either way, it's important that you talk about this. The Conversation Project's "How to Talk to Your Doctor" guide may be a helpful resource.
BIDMC's Know Your Options: A Guide for Patients with Serious Illness may also be useful to you. It includes information on a range of different treatment options, including primary, specialty, palliative and hospice care along with tips on how to discuss these options with your providers.
Also, we encourage you to ask your health care providers to include notes from your conversations in your electronic medical record. That way, other BIDMC and affiliated health care providers can retrieve this information, if necessary, in the future.