Discussions about Serious Illness in the Age of COVID-19

Several months ago, South Shore Health joined the Serious Illness Care Implementation Collaborative, a partnership between Ariadne Labs, the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and VitalTalk, in an effort to foster an open dialogue about living with Serious Illness between patients and providers.

Identifying what matters most to patients and how this translates into their health care wishes is a goal of our health system.

In addition, discussing your health care wishes with loved ones helps inform them about what matters to you.

If a loved one was going to make a medical decision for you, what would you need that person to know?

We can’t plan for everything, but we can help manage life’s unknowns by talking openly about what matters to us and what we’d want most if we became seriously ill.

Conversations about things we can’t control can actually help to give us a sense of control. We may not be able to predict every choice we’ll have to make, but we can give those we love the guiding principles to confidently make decisions for us.

If we don’t discuss our wishes, our loved ones won’t be able to honor them. Open conversations can pave a way to clarity, provide comfort, and help bring people together.

In the age of COVID-19, these conversations have become even more important.

In fact, the Boston Globe recently published an article discussing the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help with health care proxies, estate planning, and more.

The below resources below are designed to make it easier for you and your loved ones to develop thoughtful, meaningful plans of care.

Three Good Things Caregivers Can Do

In this video, Anthony Back, MD, a board-certified physician in Washington, covers three things caregivers can do to remain prepared in the era of COVID-19.

Dr. Back discusses health care proxies, conversations about medical treatment, and how caregivers can help make their loved one feel safer and stronger.


The Conversation Project

The Conversation Project is a joint venture between Ariadne Labs and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The group recently released a worksheet, Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19.

This worksheet is designed to walk you through three things you can do to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of a serious illness, and helps guide what can be difficult conversation.


Honoring Choices® Massachusetts

Honoring Choices is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping adults make a care plan that suits their wishes.

The organization offers a “Getting Started” tool kit that helps walk you through choosing a health care proxy, recording your choices in a personal directive, and discussing your wishes with your care provider.



Cake focuses on ensuring that patients have advance care plans in place that match their values. The organization also works to remove the stigma surrounding the creation of these plans and instead turns the process into an empowering one.


Health Care Proxy Form

A health care proxy is a person you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf.

The Massachusetts Medical Society offers a link to the form, along with a list of questions to consider when filling out this legally binding document.


Medical Orders for Life-Saving Treatment

Medical Orders for Life-Saving Treatment, also known as MOLST, are used for patients with  advanced illness.

MOLST helps health care professionals share information on a patient’s care to ensure that the patient’s wishes are carried out.


For additional resources on end-of-life care, please visit the Advance Directives page on our website.