Share The Health

Write It Down


Did you know that 90% of people say that talking about end-of-life care with their loved ones is important, yet only 27% have actually had that conversation?

Or that 80% of people say that talking to their doctor about the care they want if they become seriously ill is important, but just 7% report having this conversation with their healthcare provider?

And that more than 82% say it’s important to put their thoughts about end-of-life care in writing, yet less than 23% have written those thoughts down?

During a recent presentation at the Emmitsburg Senior Center, given by Frederick Memorial Hospital’s Advance Care Planning Social Worker Michelle Ross, LSGW, several attendees offered some reasons for why they hadn’t talked with their family about their end-of-life wishes.

Our kids don’t want to talk about it!”

“I’m healthy—I’ve got lots of time.”

“We’ve talked a little about it. I don’t see the point in writing it all down.”

“I just want to live while I’m living—I’ll leave it up to my family to decide.”

There are hundreds of reasons people avoid advance care planning, but there’s one main reason to make this important process a priority: to have a clear, instructional guide for your loved ones to follow if you get to a point where you cannot speak for yourself, and relieving them of the burden of guessing what you may have wanted.

Last year, Frederick Memorial Hospital launched a campaign to help Frederick residents ensure that their wishes for their own end-of-life care are expressed and reflected.

“A truly patient-centered healthcare system requires that engagement of patients, families and the general public,” says FMH President & CEO Tom Kleinhanzl. “End-of-life care is something that each of us will face. As a leader in local healthcare improvement, FMH is committed to bringing as many people as possible into the conversation.”

Because advance care planning is new to most people, the first thing the hospital did was hire a dedicated Advance Care Planning Social Worker. Michelle Ross, LGSW is available full-time to assist patients, families, staff and community members with the advance care planning process, which may include:

Completion of your living will:

  • Directs your preferences for treatment if you are unable to speak for yourself
  • Guides inpatient treatment
  • Is followed by your selected healthcare agent
  • Provide instructions for your future treatment
  • Does NOT guide EMS personnel

Selecting a healthcare agent who:

  • Makes decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself
  • A person you choose to consult with your doctor, view your medical records, and make all the decisions related to your healthcare
  • Is required to make decision according to the wishes you write down in your living will

Discussion with your doctor about Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)

  • A MOLST is a medical order completed by your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant in consultation with you.
  • It is intended for people who are seriously or chronically ill who are already in frequent contact with healthcare providers, or who are already residing in a nursing home.
  • A MOLST stays with you as you move throughout various healthcare facilities and assisted living settings (nursing home, hospital, hospice, or home with home health services).

Selection of a Financial Power of Attorney (POA)

  • A financial POA conducts business (pays bills, sells property, etc.) on your behalf should you become unable to do so.
  • This selection does not apply to making healthcare decisions. The Durable Medical Power of Attorney is required for that.
  • The same person can be your general POA and your medical POA.

Michelle is available to help you create these documents, but before you make your appointment to start the advance care planning process, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what it is that you DO want for your end-of-life care. Bringing up the topic with your loved ones can be tricky, but some families have used the following way to broach the subject:

“I was thinking about what happened to Mr. Smith across the street, and it made me realize that we’ve never talked about…”

Even though I’m okay right now, if I ever do get sick, I want to be prepared…”

“I just answered some questions about what I would like my care to look like at the end of my life. I’d like to share those with you…”

“Now that we’ve talked about my thoughts, I’m wondering what your answers to these questions might be…”

Taking the time to have this conversation with your loved ones can make all the difference. It will empower you and your loved ones to help one another to live life in a way that each of you chooses.

For ideas and tips about how to start a conversation with your own family, or to download a starter kit on this topic for your personal use, visit

Interested in hosting a presentation on the importance of advance care planning? Think you might want to schedule a personal appointment to complete your own Advance Directive? Call Michelle Ross, LGSW at 240-651-4541 or email All support provided by FMH staff is free of charge to the community.