About advance directives
Advance directives are documents that express your decisions for health care treatment and/or name an individual to make those choices for you, if you become unable. Through an advance directive — a living will or durable power of attorney for health care — you can make legally valid decisions about your future medical treatment. These include decisions such as which treatments you would like initiated, continued, withheld or withdrawn.
A living will is a document which stipulates the type of life-prolonging medical care you want if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious or in a vegetative state and are unable to make your own decisions. It is recommended that you discuss a living will with family members, your physician, and if desired, your clergy. A copy of your living will should be a part of your permanent medical records.
A durable power of attorney for health care is another kind of advance directive. It is a signed, dated and witnessed document naming another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself at any time, not just at the end of life. You can include instructions about any treatment you wish to avoid, such as surgery, nutrition and hydration. It is recommended that you discuss this document with family members, your physician, and if desired, your clergy. A copy of this document should be included with your permanent medical records. It is possible to have both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. Some states combine them in a single document that describes one’s treatment preferences in a variety of situations and names a proxy.
Practitioner orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) is a health care planning tool that allows a patient to communicate his or her preferences about a range of life-sustaining and resuscitative measures. The form is designed to be completed jointly by the individual and physician or an advanced practice nurse. It ensures the patient’s wishes are expressed and respected. Unlike an advance directive, the POLST form is an actual medical order that becomes part of the patient’s medical record.
Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital will honor a patient’s POLST and integrate its content into the care and treatment plan. If a patient (or his/her legally-recognized health care decision-maker) wishes to complete or revise a POLST form during the hospital admission, please contact the patient’s attending physician.