Princeton, NJ, September 1, 2020. Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito, legendary actors and NJ natives team up with the Goals of Care Coalition of New Jersey (GOCCNJ) to help individuals at highest risk for complications from COVID-19. These Hollywood greats and life-long friends reunite virtually during the pandemic to increase awareness about POLST– Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment — an important tool that empowers people to express their wishes and treatment preferences in case of a medical crisis. To view the Public Awareness Video, visit GOCCNJ’s website, www.goalsofcare.org.
Many may not be familiar with POLST. It is a medical order, like a prescription, that is completed and used by medical professionals to inform healthcare professionals about what treatments a patient would or would not want during a medical emergency. POLST forms are most appropriate for individuals with a serious illness or those approaching the end of life and provide specific instructions related to artificial nutrition, resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation (intubation), and re-hospitalization when a patient is unable to communicate and needs medical care. Unlike an advance directive, POLST forms are actionable, meaning the emergency or healthcare team must follow the medical orders as written.
The most important aspect of POLST is the conversation between doctor and patient required in order to complete the form. This conversation should include a discussion of the patient’s goals of care: What would matter most to you if you were faced with a life-threatening emergency? Answering this question, having this conversation with your healthcare provider, and completing the POLST form will ensure that you get the care you need and no less, and the care you want and no more. POLST ensures that treatment orders align with the patient’s goals of care.
Douglas and DeVito, who donated their time to make this video, use humor to raise awareness about a topic that most find difficult to discuss. “Facing challenging medical decisions is always hard, but it’s especially difficult during a health crisis. We’re grateful to Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito for helping us deliver this important message…if you’re a caregiver for a loved one who is seriously ill, or a decision-maker for a resident of a nursing home or senior facility, you should learn more about the POLST form,” says Dr. David Barile, MD, who was instrumental in the design of New Jersey’s POLST form and is Founder/Chief Medical Officer, GOCCNJ and Director of Palliative Medicine Services and Medical Director of the Acute Care for the Elderly Unit at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for all of us to discuss our preferences for end-of-life care with loved ones. Healthy adults should use an advance directive. However, for vulnerable, older adults, having a conversation with your healthcare provider about POLST provides an opportunity to convert your wishes into a medical order, increasing the likelihood that you’ll receive care that’s consistent with your wishes.”
These conversations are critical in New Jersey because not enough residents have had thorough discussions with healthcare professionals and family decision-makers about future medical care and documented those wishes in writing. As a result, NJ patients near the end of life receive more aggressive medical care than those in any other state and often, that high-intensity care is unwanted and burdensome to patients and their families.
GOCCNJ works with its members to raise awareness about and increase access to high-quality advance care planning and end-of-life care services such as palliative and hospice care. The Coalition believes human interests, values, and dignity must be at the core of medical decision-making, and they aspire to create a standard of care where people discuss, decide & document their wishes for care to ensure that those wishes will be honored at the end of life.
GOCCNJ will be hosting a Virtual Town Hall on September 15, 2020 @ 7 PM with leading experts in New Jersey to address questions about advance care planning and POLST in the era of COVID. All New Jersey residents are invited to attend whether you are a patient, a family decision-maker, a caregiver, or any individual interested in planning ahead. To register visit: www.goalsofcare.org/events.