Do I Need a POLST and an Advance Directive?

There seems to be some confusion about advance directives and POLST forms (Physician Orders for Life Saving Treatment). Both are very important if you want to have input in your end of life decisions. So -- here is what you need to know.

Advance directives are legal documents that provide instructions for medical care. They only go into effect if you cannot communicate your own wishes. The two most common advance directives for healthcare are a living will and a durable medical  power of attorney.

A POLST is a set of portable medical orders prepared together with your doctor who will sign it. POLSTs have different names in different states - POLST, POST, MOLST, MOST, but all have the force of medical orders. POLSTs are specifically for the seriously ill and frail. POLSTs can travel with you and are honored by emergency medical technicians. POLSTs give specific directions about your requested treatments during an emergency if you cannot speak for yourself. It does not appoint someone to speak on your behalf. Many people put their POLST on their refrigerator so it can be seen by medical personnel should 911 be called.

Advance directives appoint an individual to make decisions on your behalf, whereas a POLST contains actual medical orders given by a physician. 

The POLST form complements an advance directive. It is not intended to replace it. An advance directive is still necessary to appoint a legal healthcare decision maker.

From the time we turn 18 until our last breath, we should have an advance directive in place. Once a person turns 18, parents have no legal standing. Most physicians will listen to parents' wishes, but many consider the legal ramifications and do what they think is best. IF there is ANY disagreement within the family as to care provided and choices to be made, then know the physicians will protect themselves and do what the “loudest” voice wants—which is generally to do everything to keep their special person breathing—even when death is sure to be the end result.

We are born, we experience, and then we die. We will all die, but not all of us will die the way we want UNLESS we have an advance directive and, at the appropriate time, a POLST.

Something More… about Do I Need a POLST and an Advance Directive?

Here is another blog with more information on advance directives, Advance Directives Are Not Written In Stone.

If you haven’t gotten it yet, here is my Freebie - 10 Things You Need to Know About Approaching Death.

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1 comment

Sally Bergman

I could not agree with you more—everyone 18 and older needs a health care directive. What many people do not know is, at least in California and absent a prepaid burial plan, it is the health care directive that controls the disposition of a body after death. I have had to file court petitions to allow a family to bury a loved one because the deceased did not have one. You would be surprised how many horrific conflicts can arise in these situations.
BK Books replied:
Sally, I did not know this. Even more important to have an Advanced Directive. Blessings! Barbara

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