Advanced Care Planning

Communicating Your Choices--Advance Health Care Directive & POLST

Possibly, two of the biggest challenges we face in life are the enormous amount of choices we have to make daily and secondly, the task of communicating what we really want to others.  We live in a society that prides itself on giving each individual as many choices as possible.  Standing in the personal hygiene aisle, staring at the 25 varieties of toothpaste to choose from can be daunting.  The choice usually boils down to package appeal or beneficial ingredients, cost, or simply, someone said it was the best toothpaste out there.  Regardless of how the decision was made, hopefully, as we stand in the check out line, we feel a sense of empowerment that we made a choice that fits perfectly with what we need.  Making a choice does this, it empowers. 

As far as communicating our desires, communicating with others in general can be challenging.  How many times have you said, “I don’t think she understands me.”  Or, “I don’t think he gets what I’m trying to say.”

The magnitude of making choices and communicating your desires for your health care should you be unable to speak for yourself, feels tremendously more weighty than deciding between toothpastes or telling your hairdresser what kind of cut you’d like.  But the feeling of wellbeing and empowerment you can have from making those choices and successfully communicating those wishes can be enormously comforting. 

In the event that you cannot speak for yourself in a NON-EMERGENCY, do you desire:

  • To have a person you trust designated to speak for you?
  • To give spiritual, ethical and religious instructions for your care?
  • To give detailed instructions on the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want?
  • To express where you wish to spend your last days?

If this feels good to you, then having an Advance Health Care Directive will be very comforting.

In the event that you cannot speak for yourself in an EMERGENCY, do you desire:

  • To have a document available to Paramedics and other EMERGENCY health care professionals that quickly and clearly communicates your Doctor’s orders for your care?
    • To have a document that says whether you want CPR or you want to Allow a Natural Death?
    • To have a document that provides a full-spectrum of choices, from Full Treatment to Comfort Measures Only?
    • To have a document that clearly states how you feel about artificial nutrition?
    • To have a document that is signed by you or your surrogate AND your doctor?
    • To have a document that you can change or revoke at any time?
    If this feels good to you, then having a POLST form (Physician Order for Life Sustaining
    reatment) will be very comforting.

But first, you must have the conversation. 

It is not only important to communicate your health care wishes to your doctor, but also with friends and family, even though some may not be open to talking about this vulnerable time in the life cycle.  Having a frank, open and loving conversation with your loved ones regarding what your specific desires are if an emergency situation arises, and asking that they respect the choices you make, even if it may be uncomfortable for them, will help ensure your wishes are respected and carried out.

If you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic debilitating illness or is facing a life-limiting disease, a combination of a POLST and an Advance Health Care Directive gives the best opportunity to have wishes followed in the event a person cannot speak for himself or herself.

Communicating effectively is sometimes challenging.  Communicating effectively when you are not feeling well and not thinking clearly can be enormously challenging and stressful. 

Have the conversation about the health care wishes of you and your loved ones sooner rather than later. 

Hospice of Hilo is here to help if you would like help creating a POLST form or an Advanced Health Care Directive.  Please call (808)-969-1733 for more information.


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