As individuals navigate their healthcare journey, particularly in times of serious illness or end-of-life care, having clear and comprehensive documentation of their medical preferences is crucial. One such document that plays a vital role in guiding healthcare decisions is the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) or MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form. Let’s take a look at what these forms entail and provide a comprehensive guide on how to read and interpret them effectively.

Understanding the Purpose of POLST/MOLST Forms
Advance Care Planning: POLST/MOLST forms are legal documents that translate a person’s healthcare wishes into medical orders. They are designed to ensure that individuals receive the level of care they desire, particularly in critical situations where they may not be able to communicate their preferences.

Medical Orders: Unlike advance directives, which outline preferences for care, POLST/MOLST forms are individualized medical orders signed by a healthcare provider. They provide specific instructions regarding the use of life-sustaining treatments such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intubation, and artificial nutrition.

Portable and Transferable: POLST/MOLST forms are portable medical orders that travel with the individual across healthcare settings. Whether in a hospital, nursing home, or home care setting, these forms ensure continuity of care and help healthcare providers honor the individual’s treatment preferences. It is vital to always have an updated copy of this document on file at any health care institution or center where you receive care or treatment.

Decoding the Components of POLST/MOLST Forms
Sections of the Form: POLST/MOLST forms typically consist of several sections, including sections for CPR, medical interventions, antibiotics, and artificial nutrition. Each section allows individuals to specify their preferences regarding these treatments.

Code Status: The CPR section of the form addresses whether the individual wishes to receive CPR in the event of cardiac arrest. Options may include full resuscitation, do not resuscitate (DNR), or do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR). Especially if CPR is unlikely to improve a patient’s outcome or quality of life, it is imperative to have one of these on file to follow the patient’s specific wishes.

Medical Interventions: This section covers other life-sustaining treatments such as intubation, mechanical ventilation, and transfer to the hospital. Individuals can specify their preferences regarding the use of these interventions based on their goals of care. It’s especially important to understand which interventions are likely to provide valuable support versus causing unnecessary suffering.

Antibiotics and Artificial Nutrition: POLST/MOLST forms may also include sections for antibiotics and artificial nutrition. Individuals can indicate whether they wish to receive these treatments in specific situations. Some patients do not wish to have long-term antibiotics and/or artificial nutrition if their qualify of life will diminish and/or if the cons outweigh the pro’s of receiving such treatments.

Tips for Reading and Interpreting POLST/MOLST Forms
Review Carefully: When reviewing a POLST/MOLST form, it’s essential to read each section carefully and understand the individual’s preferences regarding treatment. Make sure to review this document with your person and or your POA. The person in charge of making healthcare decisions in the event that you cannot communicate needs to be well-versed and on the same page as you.

Clarify Ambiguities: If any aspects of the form are unclear or ambiguous, consult with the individual or their designated healthcare decision-maker to ensure that their wishes are accurately documented. Be specific if you are unsure; write in your own specific preferences where allowed.

Respect Individual Preferences: Honor the individual’s preferences as documented on the POLST/MOLST form, ensuring that healthcare decisions align with their goals of care and values. Make sure your chosen person or POA understands and will be able to follow your preferences and wishes.

Update as Needed: POLST/MOLST forms should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in the individual’s health status or treatment preferences. Any changes or updates need to be clearly communicated to your care team.

Empowering Informed Healthcare Decision-Making
POLST/MOLST forms play a crucial role in empowering individuals to make informed healthcare decisions and ensure that their treatment preferences are honored across all healthcare settings. By understanding the purpose and components of these forms and following best practices for reading and interpreting them, healthcare providers can facilitate meaningful conversations about end-of-life care and support individuals in achieving their healthcare goals. Let’s prioritize advance care planning and empower individuals to advocate for the care they desire, even in challenging circumstances.

With Call-Light, we can assist in this important aspect of life and make it easier. Take control of your future today and start planning for tomorrow.