End of life planning can be a painful but necessary step of acceptance of your terminal illness. A hospice or palliative care provider will help you through the essential parts of creating an Advance Directive, Living Will, and POLSTs. Planning for your end of life care takes pressure off of your family and helps them rest assured that they have your wishes in mind every step of your journey.
You’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Nothing short of life-altering. You’re left wondering how you will receive treatment and savoring the precious moments you have left with your family in friends. Paperwork, lawyers, doctors, and planning ahead are the furthest from your mind. However, end of life planning can be incredibly relieving and is a vital step in processing your illness. With the help of a carer or nurse case manager, you can easily work through the necessary steps of creating a will, assigning power of attorney, and ensuring that you are cared for in the way that matches your spiritual and emotional preferences.
Setting Up Advance Directives
Advanced Directives cover such issues as your Living Will, Power of Attorney, and special requests regarding the handling of your body after death.
An advance directive will make clear issues such as:
- Spiritual Preferences
- Where you would like to be when you die
- Whether or not you’d like to donate your organs or entire body
- After death care such as cremation, funeral home preference, the care of the body, etc.
- Any additional details you would prefer in the event of your death
Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) serve to guide your physician and emergency medical services in the event that you require life-sustaining care. Your preferences for medical treatment such as resuscitation and life-support systems are covered in POLST.
You aren’t required to fill out a POLST form but creating one helps create peace of mind for yourself, your physician, and your family members.
- Medical conditions
- Treatment options
- Artificially administered medications, fluid, and nutrition
POLST forms must be signed by a physician in order for it to be regarded as a legal medical order.
Bear in mind, a POLST form does NOT replace an advance directive.
Your POLST form should be kept prominently in your home where it can be easily seen by emergency personnel in the event that you need to be transported to a hospital.
- POLSTs help your physician and family decide what type of medical care you want in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
- In order for a POLST form to be valid, it must be signed by your physician.
- Keep your POLST form in your medical paperwork as well as prominently displayed in your home (i.e. a refrigerator).
- You can download your POLST form by following this link.
Communicating your wishes BEFORE a situation arises removes the burden of choice from your family and friends and ensures that your wishes are carried out in the event that you cannot ask for them.
Creating Your Living Will
- Choose Your Power of Attorney or Health Care Representative
- Signing and Witnessing Your Advance Directive
If you’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, there is a beautiful article by Psychology Today that walks you through the questions most people ask or need to answer for themselves in order to fully accept their situation.
All of this terminology and planning can feel very clinical and overwhelming. The guidance of family, friends, and caregivers or case managers can help you through the steps.
Remember, signing these papers does NOT mean you’re giving up.
You’re planning for the benefit of your friends and family, as well as for yourself. No matter what happens, having your wishes clearly and legally outlined takes one layer of stress off of yourself and those you care about so you can focus on enjoying the life you have.