Have you heard of POLST? It stands for Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. The document is printed on bright green paper so that it is easily seen, and often is found on the refrigerator, near a medicine cabinet or on a bedside table. The form can be quickly understood by all healthcare professionals, including first responders and ambulance personnel.
POLST’s key elements & provisions
• It contains medical orders that specify the type of care you would like in the event of a medical emergency.
• POLST must be completed and signed by you or your legally authorized representative (LAR) and a physician, advance practice registered nurse (APRN) or a physician’s assistant (PA) to be valid.
• It takes effect as soon as it is signed.
• Healthcare professionals, including EMS personnel, are required to honor your POLST.
• It follows you from home into a medical setting and, after discharge, to your home or other setting such as a nursing or care home.
• It can be updated, with guidance from a provider, when health conditions or preferred treatments change, and is particularly helpful in caring for those who have a serious illness, medical frailty or chronic medical conditions.
AHCD vs. POLST
We recommend that you also complete an Advance Health-Care Directive (AHCD) to assign durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions to someone you trust, should you be unable to speak for yourself during a health crisis. The AHCD form is a way to establish who your legally authorized representative is, so that their fignature, instead of yours, on the POLST is valid. It also has optional questions about what kind of end-of-life care you want to receive.
The treatment focus of a POLST is your current medical condition, turning your wishes into action in a medical emergency. For that reason, it should be kept up-to-date and in an obvious place. As of July 1, 2023, there is an updated and improved POLST form. The old forms are still valid, but we encourage people to use the new form when creating or updating a POLST.
We recommend that all loved ones and caregivers review and understand the POLST.
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