Make Sure End-of-Life Wishes Are Honored with a POLST


A POLST supplements your senior’s living will

One of the main goals of planning for end of life is to help your older adult document their wishes. That way their preferences can still be carried out even if they’re no longer able to speak for themselves. A living will like the Five Wishes helps with this.

Another document that might be right for some seniors is the POLST. This is a different document that only covers end-of-life treatment preferences. Emergency medical personnel (like EMTs or paramedics) and hospitals must follow the instructions in a POLST because it’s signed by a doctor.


What is a POLST?

POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. It’s a medical form that’s legally recognized in many U.S. states and spells out end-of-life treatments that someone does or doesn’t want.

A POLST is separate from a living will or advanced directive. It’s a simple one-page document that’s usually printed on bright pink paper so it’s easy for EMTs and medical staff to recognize. Medical personnel must follow the instructions on a POLST.


If you have a living will why would you need a POLST too?

Someone who is feels strongly about their end-of-life treatments may want to have a POLST as well as a living will to make sure their wishes are actually carried out.

If somebody isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a heartbeat, all EMTs are required to immediately begin CPR and provide full medical treatment – no matter their age, medical condition, or even if they have a living will.

If someone doesn’t want CPR or invasive treatments, having a signed living will isn’t enough to stop them from happening because that’s not a doctor’s order. If your older adult feels strongly about not being resuscitated or treated, having a POLST will ensure their wishes are fulfilled.


Who uses a POLST?

A POLST is typically used by seriously ill or frail patients. It allows them to specifically choose the treatments they do or don’t want. It makes sure their wishes are honored, especially by emergency medical personnel, hospital staff, and assisted living and nursing home staff.


What does the POLST form cover?

The form is very straightforward. There are 3 sections with checkboxes to select specific preferences about three types of treatment:

  1. Do you want CPR?
  2. What level of medical interventions do you want?
  3. Do you want a feeding tube?


Which U.S. states use POLST?

POLST isn’t legally recognized in every state in the United States yet. Check here to see if it’s used in your state and to get more specific information from their website.

Also, some states use a variation of the name for the same form, so don’t be surprised to see acronyms like MOLST, MOST, or something similar.


Next Step  Find out more about how a POLST could benefit your senior


You might also like:
POLST vs Living Will: What’s the Difference?
What is a Living Will?
Does CPR Do More Harm Than Good for Seniors?


By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: OHSU

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