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POLST ensures that patient preferences are honored

Adventist Health Health and Wellness, Home Care

Emergencies happen every day, catching people off guard and often at the most inconvenient time.

But there are many ways people can prepare for emergencies before they happen, from having a list of medications on-hand to knowing where the nearest emergency department is located. In an emergency, when every second matters, being prepared can save time, and even someone's life.

POLST Form ensures patient values are considered in an emergency

For elders and their adult children, or for those people living with a chronic illness, one thing to discuss ahead of time is their wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care.

Completing a POLST Form, or Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, ensures that in emergency medical situations the patient's values, beliefs and treatment preferences are honored. This is important, because in an emergency, patients are often unable to make decisions for themselves.

This form provides helpful end-of-life directions for physicians and families, and it's one that the emergency department team at Adventist Health Portland recommends for people nearing the end of life.

 Who should have a POLST Form?

POLST is not for everyone. The team at Adventist Health Portland recommends that people living with a serious illness, declining health, or serious frailty consider filling one out.

Advanced stages of heart disease, lung disease or cancer are just a few reasons one might consider this option. It's also a good option for elders who are approaching the end stages of life. Typically, it's recommended that one fills the form out if they don't expect to live past the next year.

"Having a POLST Form provides end-of-life directive for physicians and helps address the shortcomings of advance directives or living wills in emergency medical situations," says Dr. Eli Klovee-Smith, an emergency medicine doctor at Adventist Health Portland. "Our priority in an emergency is treating the patient while honoring their values, beliefs and treatment wishes. POLST allows us to do that."

Difference between POLST and an advance directive

Both of these documents provide end-of-life instructions for doctors and families, but they are different.

POLST Form is a medical order typically for people who are preparing for end-of-life care and understand that they could pass soon.

An advance directive, also called a living will or power of attorney, is a legal document that provides similar guidance for doctors and families, but it's usually for unexpected emergencies or life-threatening scenarios, such as a car accident. All healthy people 18 and older should consider an advance directive.

Advance directives typically address topics such as resuscitation, organ and tissue donation, and treatment for end-of-life care, such as use of pain medications and dying at home to keep a loved one more comfortable and to manage their pain.

Where do you get a POLST Form, and what happens next?

Ask your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant for a POLST Form. If it's for an aging or sick loved one, attend a medical appointment with them.

The bright pink form, once filled out with a patient's medical care provider and signed, will be sent to the Oregon POLST Registry, so the patient's medical orders can be uploaded and saved online for quick access by medical care providers in an emergency.

A copy of the pink form, or a magnet from the Oregon POLST Registry that is sent to those who complete the form, should be posted to the refrigerator or somewhere easily spotted by emergency medical personnel in the event of an emergency.

More information about POLST in Oregon can be found online.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

The decision to enter hospice care can be emotional and often bewildering. Hospice care is provided to people facing a terminal illness or condition with anticipated death in the next six months, often creating a difficult and trying time for patients and their families.

If your loved one is facing failing health and considering hospice, there are many programs and end-of-life care considerations to take into account before making a decision. The big question is: how do you know if the services provided offer a good match for your ailing mother or father or friend?

Remember foremost that going into hospice doesn't mean you've given up on a loved one or that he or she has given up either. It just means one form of treatment isn't working and it's time to take a new approach. Hospice becomes an alternative care method that provides a relaxed, nurturing environment for a patient who's battling the disease.

Community Remembrance

Friday, Dec. 1, 4-6 p.m. at  Adventist Medical Center

Honor a loved one or special caregiver at this holiday remembrance event presented by Adventist Health Hospice. Learn more and register.

Don't be afraid to ask questions about hospice care

Patients and their family members can never ask too many questions before entering hospice care. What is hospice care? What's provided, and what's not? What are the commitments? These kinds of queries will help ensure your loved one's smooth transition into hospice and that everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

Every person will have their own unique experience and needs, so it's important to ask questions and ensure that you and your loved ones feel a sense of support, understanding and trust. Support services and grief healing groups for loved ones help ensure that no one has to cope with loss alone.

Ultimately, hospice care exists for people who want guidance and support through their final moments in life. Hospice staff should bring thoughtfulness and stability to their patients.