Retirement Blog

Finance Blogs » Retirement » Making the final decision

Making the final decision

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Posted: 3 pm ET

© Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.com
If end-of-life decision-making documents aren't yet part of your retirement planning, here's a reason to add them.

The 85-year-old mother of a friend of mine recently received a pacemaker while she was hospitalized with a broken leg. My friend, who is a registered nurse, says her mother has severe dementia and a host of other ailments that made extending her life artificially a decision that wasn't in her mother's best interests.

The decision to install the pacemaker fell to her father. When he asked my friend what she thought he should decide, she told him, "What I've seen as a nurse is that a pacemaker keeps a body alive -- not a person, but a body."

The enormity and consequences of the decision confused and troubled her father, and ultimately, he was unwilling to say no, so her mother got the life-extending pacemaker. If her mother had end-of-life decision-making documentation in place, the outcome might have been different.

Many states are adopting a new approach to end-of-life planning, known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST. This document emphasizes advance care-planning conversations between patients, their loved ones and health care professionals. It seeks to ensure that the patient's wishes are honored in future emergency situations. It differs from an advance directive because it focuses on unknown future occurrences rather than current treatment. It also guides medical personnel in an emergency, which advance directives generally don't do.

A POLST is a medical order and, therefore, must be completed and signed by a health care professional. A patient can't do this on his or her own. POLSTs are endorsed or developing in most states. They have been long established in Oregon and West Virginia. If the concept is available in your state and you would like to include one of these in your retirement planning, start by talking to your doctor.

«
»
Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
Add a comment

(Comments may take 5-10 minutes to appear)