Bloomfield-based internist John Kelly, MD, still remembers a dementia patient from a decade ago who was rushed from a nursing home setting to the hospital and was put on a ventilator when her breathing failed. When the patient’s family arrived, they questioned why the ventilator had been initiated, as this was against the patient’s wishes. As Dr. Kelly explained, without a clear indication of what the patient wanted, and in the absence of a family member present, the hospital was required to sustain life.
“In the past, people were kept alive no matter what the quality of life. Now, patients and families have the opportunity to make their wishes known ahead of time about the use of life-sustaining treatments in a variety of situations. These advance directive documents follow the patient at all times, from nursing home to hospital and back, so the physician is aware of what the patient wants,” says Dr. Kelly, who is Medical Director of Rehabilitative Services at Alaris Health at Cedar Grove.
From June 1 to July 31, Dr. Kelly has partnered with Alaris Member Health Centers in a ‘60 Day, 1,000 Wishes Campaign’ to promote the signing of Advance Directives. The goal is to get 1,000 patients to sign POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Advance Directives.
The National POLST Paradigm is an approach to end-of-life planning based on conversations between patients, loved ones, and medical providers. The POLST Paradigm is designed to ensure that seriously ill patients can choose the treatments they want and that their wishes are honored by medical providers.
“Family members don’t always know what life saving options their loved one would want,” says Dr. Kelly. Ending up in the hospital often means aggressive, high-cost treatment at the expense of quality of life. According to a Dartmouth study, at most academic medical centers more than 40% of the patients saw 10 or more doctors in the last six months of their lives.
Dr. Kelly urges individuals to make their wishes known in a POLST Advance Directive before a medical crisis occurs. He asks patients to think about what they are expecting as far as medical care at the end of their lives as planning ahead is always beneficial since life is unpredictable.
“It is great to see Alaris Member Health Centers taking a step forward to initiate this program, and being the first in the state to do so. I applaud their concern about end of life issues,” adds Dr. Kelly.
Please call (855) 7-ALARIS for more information or visit www.alarishealth.com.