Do you have a health care proxy?

Selecting a Health Care Proxy is an important long-term planning step as you get older.

By Juliana Adams, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker, CHA Elder Service Plan

Designating a health care proxy (HCP) is one of the most important long-term planning steps you can take for yourself and family as you get older. An HCP is a person that you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make choices due to a health problem. The HCP is someone who is able to communicate with the care team, obtain medical records, and make choices about care. Essentially, they speak for you when you are unable to communicate for yourself.

Naming a proxy can help ensure that you get the health care you prefer in the event you cannot voice your wishes. If you become sick and your care team feels you are no longer able to make your own decisions, this is when your physician will activate or invoke your HCP. The HCP will assume control over making decisions regarding medical care.

It’s critical to put a lot of thought into selecting your HCP. This person should be someone you trust to make decisions that are in line with your wishes. The relationship should be based on frequent dialogue so both of you understand your intentions in the event of an emergency. In Massachusetts, people have the option to designate an "alternate proxy" as well. If your primary HCP is not available or unable to serve as your decision maker at that moment, the alternate proxy will be contacted.

Speak with a doctor, social worker, or another medical professional, about selecting an HCP and completing the required paper. However, the form does not need to be completed with a lawyer or medical professional involved or present. Massachusetts does require two witness signatures though. Remember to make several copies of the completed form and share them with your health care team, HCP, and alternative HCP. It’s a good idea to share copies with loved ones, and anyone else who might be involved with your care too. Click here to download the Massachusetts form.

For more detailed information, including a toolkit for how to both choose a HCP and how to be an HCP for someone else, please visit The Conversation Project.

Do you know someone 55+ who needs extra support to stay healthy in their home and community? The Cambridge Health Alliance Elder Service Plan (ESP) provides the expert health care and social supports older adults need. Visit or call 617-575-5850 and ask for a member of the Enrollment Team to discover more.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.