Don’t Wait on Making your Health Care Decisions Known

By Colleen Morrissey

People often procrastinate when it comes to health care decisions—and that can lead to serious dilemmas for friends and family if there’s an unforeseen crisis. But a new initiative at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) aims to help people take charge of that process.

SCES is partnering with Honoring Choices Massachusetts to provide guidance for adults and caregivers on ensuring that vital health care decisions are recorded, in the event of a crisis.

Honoring Choices uses a community-based model that provides health care information, documents such as the health care proxy or MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), planning tools, and more. They collaborate with local entities like SCES, which are already linked to community members, to disseminate and explain these materials.

Five SCES staff members were recently certified with Honoring Choices Massachusetts, a program that provides guidance for adults and caregivers on ensuring that vital health care decisions are recorded, in the event of a crisis. SCES PHOTO

SCES Clinical Director Annie Fowler said the partnership fits with SCES’ mission to enhance health, wellbeing, and independence for local older adults.

“We pride ourselves on personal choice when it comes to our services, so we also want to encourage individuals to express their wishes about end-of-life decisions, and to share those wishes with people close to them,” said Fowler. “End-of-life planning is something that everyone, regardless of current health status or age, should think about.”

As part of the partnership, SCES has trained five staff members to lead conversations on healthcare planning, using the Honoring Choices approach. These employees will provide free advice and tools to adults and caregivers in the Somerville and Cambridge areas.

Additional help with selecting a health care proxy, specific healthcare decisions, or communicating with health care providers is also available through Community Living Options (CLO), a private pay program that specializes in aging and caregiving issues.

In addition to Honoring Choices, CLO social workers can also provide assistance with applying for public benefits, and managing chronic illnesses and medical appointments, explained CLO social worker Carolynn Nagao-Marcotte.

“CLO social workers act as guides to help you research healthcare options specific to your situation, because everyone is different,” said Nagao-Marcotte. “We can also facilitate conversations with family members who are uncomfortable with end-of-life planning or in disagreement.”

“The Honoring Choices model fits into CLO’s mission to respect each person’s autonomy and dignity, and to help them make informed choices about their care,” she added.

Colleen Morrissey is a Resource Specialist at SCES.

 About SCES: Established in 1972, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is a private, non-profit agency dedicated to improving the quality of life and maintaining the dignity and independence of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. The SCES Aging Information Center can be reached at 617-628-2601. Community Living Options is an SCES program that serves much of the Greater Boston Area. Call 617-756-1026 for more information.