How to Prepare for the End of Life
Advance Directives and POLST
Peace of mind about end-of-life preferences. Most people have clear ideas of their end-of-life preferences, but few share these with family and physicians. Advance care planning documents are designed to preserve a patient's final wishes.
The term 'advance directive' refers to your oral and written instructions about your future medical care in the event you are unable to express your medical wishes. There are two types of advance directives: a health care directive (also known as a living will), and a durable power of attorney for health care. Every person aged 18 or over should consider preparing a directive.
If you have a serious illness, the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form represents a way of summarizing your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment into actual physician orders.
More information regarding advance directives and POLST can be found via the links on the left.
Relatedly, there is a mental health advance directive, a written document that describes what you want to happen if you become so incapacitated by mental illness that your judgment is impaired and/or you are unable to communicate effectively. More information on mental health advance directives can be found on the DSHS website.
Hospice is a concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a serious illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.
Hospice programs exist throughout Washington state. All, except volunteer hospices, are required to be licensed by the state Department of Health (DOH). In addition, most hospices are also certified by Medicare. Volunteer hospices are required to be registered with the DOH. No matter where you live, a hospice program is available to provide end-of-life care.
The links below can help you learn more about hospice and to locate a hospice in your area.
Washington State Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (WSHPCO)
WSHPCO is an organization of hospice and palliative care providers dedicated to promoting and maintaining quality, compassionate care for those facing life-threatening illnesses.
Hospice Foundation of America
This is a very comprehensive site that provides information about what hospice care is and how to locate and select a hospice and/or support groups.
Improving End-of-Life Care in Your Community
The WSMA formed the Washington End of Life Consensus Coalition (WEOLCC) in 1997, a broad-based cross-section of individuals and organizations across the state interested in bettering end of life care. Find out more about the efforts of the Coalition via the link on the menu to the left.