You’ve had a terrible accident at home or are at the end of life and now the end is drawing near. Something has necessitated the calling of EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and they are on their way. You may think that if you have an advanced directive that gives instruction to your loved ones when you become unable to make decisions and you have a ‘do not resuscitate’ order the EMTs will find it. But that is not true. The EMTs do not go through your personal paperwork. However, if your loved one has the presence of mind to get your advanced directive out and show it to the EMTs you may be cared for the way you want. But there is another option.

POLST document

This is a picture of the POLST documents my parents have on their bulletin board in the garage. They are easy to find.

This option is for those who are frail or seriously ill more control if a situation like this happens. The bright pink POLST form, hanging on the refrigerator or another location where it can be easily seen by EMTs will allow them to read what your wishes are. Otherwise, they will do everything they can to keep you alive. However, many people do not want to be resuscitated.

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a form that gives seriously-ill patients more control over their end-of-life care, including medical treatment, extraordinary measures (such as a ventilator or feeding tube) and CPR. Printed on bright pink paper, and signed by both a patient and physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, POLST can prevent unwanted or ineffective treatments, reduce patient and family suffering, and ensure that a patient’s wishes are honored.
Download the POLST form.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California has created and compiled a variety of resources to help educate patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals on the issues – both medical and deeply personal – surrounding POLST.

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