It's so difficult to begin end-of-life discussions and make decisions before they become crises. Life changes can be long in the making, which makes it seem easier to put off. Unexpected events can happen at any time. Open conversation with those we love about the care we hope to receive, and all our most important priorities is such a valuable step to take sooner rather than later. Sharing, appreciating, and planning now is the kind of love we all hope for, deserve, and need to show to others.

Here are some online resources that might help.

Advance Directives

Advance Directive (medical part of a living will) - legal document used to provide guidance about what types of treatments a patient may want to receive in case of a future, unknown medical emergency; also, a document in which patients designate a surrogate. All adults should have an advanced directive.

Download PDF

Download PDF (Spanish)

POLST

POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm Form - signed by a physician, this is a medical order for specific treatments the patient would want based on their diagnosis, prognosis and goals of care. Only individuals with a serious illness or frailty near the end-of-life should have this form. Learn more

The POLST form does not replace the advance directive form. See POLST.org to help you understand the difference.

Advanced Care Planning Resources

All adults 18 years of age and older should have these legal documents. Protect your interests when you cannot represent yourself.

Advance Directives

Form's name Purpose Uses Description Process to complete form & resources
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA)

Health Care Decision Making

Medical staff rely on this document when you are unable to communicate and/or make decisions.

You name a trusted person to oversee your medical care and make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. 

Form is sometimes called:

  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Agent
  • Health Care Proxy
  • Health Care Surrogate

Free: There are no charges for completing these forms. You do not need an attorney or a notary to finalize. 

There are many acceptable versions of these forms available on-line or at health facilities. 

Steps:

  1. Read and complete forms
  2. Sign the forms
  3. Have two witnesses sign forms (these witnesses cannot be one of your decision makers). 
  4. Give copies of the forms to all who might be involved with your care (your DPOA, family, doctor, hospital)
  5. Review and update forms periodically. 

theconversationproject.org

agingwithdignity.org

Living Will Health Care Decision Making Medical staff rely on this document when you have an end-stage medical condition or are permanently unconscious. You describe the type of treatment you want, or do not want, if you cannot tell the doctor yourself.

Medical Order

Form's name Purpose Uses Description Process to complete form & resources
POLST (Pennsylvania Order of Life Sustaining Treatment)

Health Care Decision Making in the last year of life for anyone, including children. Typically goes together with a Living Will. 

Medical Order completed when you have an end of life condition. Often coincides with the living will but may change with knowledge of current disease/condition.

You describe the type of treatment you want, or do not want, if cannot tell the doctor yourself. 

This form is a MEDICAL ORDER completed with your doctor.  This form can be changed and revoked at any time.

Free: There are no charges for completing this form. 

This is a medical order completed with your physician following a conversation about your end of life wishes.

Ask your physician or health care specialist about the POLST.

polst.org

Non-Medical Planning Resources

Form's name Purpose Uses Description Process to complete form & resources

Financial Power of Attorney (POA)

Financial Decision Making

(While you are still alive, but incapacitated)

Ensures that your personal information is managed appropriately (including bills, Social Security checks, investments, tax returns and personal mail).  Your agent will take responsibility for managing your finances when you are no longer able to do so competently.  Your agent doesn't have to be a financial expert; just someone you trust who has the ability to handle financial transactions on your behalf. 

It is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to prepare this document. 

This is a confidential document that should be kept in a safe place at home (Do NOT keep in your safe-deposit box since your agent will need access). Your attorney will also keep a copy. You should share sparingly with others. 

Last Will and Testament

Distribution of Estate 

(After death)

Communicates your final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents.  The legal document by which you can express your wishes as to how your property is to be distributed at death, and names one of more persons as the executor to manage the estate until its final distribution.

It is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to prepare this document. 

This is a confidential document that should be kept in a safe place (safe-deposit box). Your attorney will also keep a copy. You should share sparingly with others. 

Additional Resources

GetPalliativeCare.org provides clear, comprehensive palliative care information for people coping with serious illness. Key features of the site include a Palliative Care Directory of Hospitals, a definition of palliative care, and detailed descriptions of what palliative care does and how to get it. It also provides an interactive quiz to assist you in deciding whether palliative care might be right for you or a loved one. The site is provided by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC).

The Conversation Project, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman, is a public engagement campaign with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to make sure that every person’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected. See the link for the Conversation Starter Kit aims at helping people overcome barriers to planning and start talking to family and loved ones about their wishes for end-of-life care. Free to print in English, Spanish, and many other languages

Aging with Dignity is a private, non-profit organization with a mission to safeguard the human dignity of people as they age or face serious illness. For nearly 20 years, Aging with Dignity has been an advocate for quality care for those near the end of life. See link to find out more About their step-by-step guide/booklet to create an advance health care directive.

Hospice Care & Palliative Care

According to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization:

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and in most cases care is provided in the patient's home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care:

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.

Local hospice agencies

Name Address Phone

Asera Care – Hospice

York, PA

1-888-273-0935

Celtic Healthcare and Hospice

Mechanicsburg, PA

1-888-923-5842

Kindred Hospice (Newville or north of Newville)

Camp Hill,PA

(717) 612-1200

Grane Hospice

Camp Hill, PA

(717) 763-4001

Heartland

Chambersburg, PA

1-800-830-9750

Hospice 365 (formerly Horizons Hospice)

Camp Hill, PA

(717) 730-6734

Hospice of Washington County

Hagerstown, MD

(301) 791-6360

SpiriTrust Luthran Home Care & Hospice

Chambersburg, PA

1-800-840-9081

UPMC/Pinnacle Health Homecare/Hospice

Harrisburg, PA

(717) 724-6670

Wellspan Health & Hospice

Gettysburg, PA

(717) 334-1490

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