When making necessary arrangements for end-of-life care, it is always important that you be your own best advocate. While many of us are aware of common legal documents such as powers of attorney and advanced healthcare directives, a less commonly understood, but equally important document is the Physician Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form.
Many states, including Texas, now recommend that POLST forms be included in your estate plans.
A POLST form is a legal document that provides instructions to your medical doctors about the time of life-sustaining treatment that you do or do not want to receive. This can include:
On a POLST form, you can indicate the level of end-of-life assistance that you want to receive. After you have detailed these directives on your form, the form is then reviewed by your primary care physician or another healthcare provider, signed, and placed in your medical files.
In the event that you are receiving emergency or end-of-life care by multiple healthcare facilities, your POLST form should travel with your files and be available to any medical professional you encounter.
POLST forms and advanced healthcare directives serve a similar purpose of ensuring that your wishes for end of life care are clearly spelled out and can be followed even in the event that you are no longer able to communicate them. However, neither form is meant to act as a substitute for the other.
While an advanced healthcare directive allows you to appoint a healthcare agent to act on your behalf, and set forth a broader range of healthcare wishes, POLST forms focus specifically on ensuring that medical doctors are aware of your end-of-life plans, particularly when a healthcare agent may not be available to assist, and in minimizing the potential for communication errors during emergency treatment.
POLST forms are often most important for individuals facing serious medical health diagnosis, such as those that are terminally ill or in hospice. They can help to minimize the risk of confusion when doctors are treating you in an emergency medical situation, and can reduce the likelihood that you will be exposed to unnecessary pain or suffering during life sustaining treatment.
If you or a family member are facing a terminal diagnosis, or in nursing or hospice care, you should consider completing a POLST form to memorialize your medical wishes. Your current physicians may not yet have offered you an opportunity to complete the Texas form, or you may be unsure of how to do so.
At Romano & Sumner, LLC, our estate planning attorneys can guide you through the POLST form process and even speak with your doctors, if helpful, to communicate your wishes. To learn more about how to prepare for your future, contact us online or at 281-242-0995.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC