Living will and POLST are used differently
Making sure your older adult has proper end-of-life documents can be confusing. You’ve probably already heard of a living will. A POLST is a useful, but less well-known document that many caregivers don’t know about.
Even though they both cover end-of-life wishes, a POLST is different from a living will. A POLST is a doctor’s order while a living will is a legal document. That means they’ll be used differently by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and hospital personnel.
Some seniors may want to have both a POLST and a living will to make sure their end-of-life wishes are protected in all situations.
How a POLST works
A POLST is a one page form that focuses only on immediate treatments. It’s best for health emergencies because it’s a medical order signed by a doctor. That means EMTs and hospitals must do what the POLST specifies.
It’s usually recommended for terminally ill or very frail seniors who have made their end-of-life wishes clear.
How a living will works
A living will is a legal document that contains your older adult’s end-of-life preferences. When decisions need to be made about future treatments, a living will guides the health care agent to make choices that honor their wishes.
Because a living will isn’t a medical order, it can’t tell EMTs and hospitals what to do. Even if resuscitation or other end-of-life choices are specified, they can’t be honored. Standard emergency medical protocols must be followed unless a doctor’s orders say otherwise.
Living wills are more useful in non-emergency situations like when someone is in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
How a living will and POLST work together
To make sure your older adult’s wishes will be honored in any situation, they should have both a living will and POLST. Keep them both handy so you can show them to doctors, hospital staff, and EMTs.
Quick facts: POLST vs living will
|Age requirement||For any age||For age 18 and older|
|Who can use it?||Only those who are seriously ill or frail||Anyone regardless of current health|
|How is it used?||To direct immediate medical treatment||To direct future decisions about medical treatments|
|Tells EMTs & hospitals what medical treatments can be used in an emergency||YES||NO|
|Guides patient treatment when staying in a facility or hospital||YES||YES|
|Appoints someone to make health care decisions on your behalf||NO||YES|
By DailyCaring Editorial Team