Many people worry about end-of-life medical decisions that may be made on their behalf by others. To address this concern, a Health Care Directive (also known as a Living Will) can be drawn up specifying your wishes and designating the individual (the Health Care Representative) who will act as your agent with health care providers if you are unconscious or unable to communicate.
Having a Health Care Directive is certainly an important and necessary part of estate planning and preparing for end-of-life needs. It ensures that you will have a designated representative, someone you selected, speaking for you if you are no longer able to do so. It is strongly recommended that, no matter what your age, when doing a Will, you should also have a Health Care Directive prepared or updated as needed.
Now, a new New Jersey form, Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), is available to supplement the Health Care Directive and to further help clarify an individual’s end-of-life wishes. This new form was issued by the State and the New Jersey Hospital Association in February 2013. It is now being distributed to physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers.
Specifically, POLST is applicable for individuals with a life expectancy of five years or less. In such cases, the patient (or his guardian) and the doctor or nurse practitioner jointly complete the form, detailing what the patient’s goals for care are and the medical interventions that the patient does or does not want. It is best to update a POLST whenever the patient’s status changes (for example, when the patient moves from his home into a nursing home).
What makes POLST so special is that it is a medical order, which means that your healthcare providers must follow its instructions. Also, upon completion, POLST becomes part of your medical records and travels with you. So, if you move from your home to the hospital and then to a nursing home in-state, the medical personnel attending you will, at each point along the way, have access to POLST.
It should be noted that filling out a POLST form is not mandatory. However, having a completed POLST certainly helps ensure that your end-of-life wishes will be respected!
Geting Legal Help
Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga A. Goodman, can assist you with all aspects of estate planning. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.
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