Frequently Asked Questions

Santa Barbara Advance Care Planning FAQ

1. What communities does the Alliance for Living and Dying Well serve?

The Alliance currently serves the communities in South Santa Barbara County on an on-going basis, but we respond to special requests from north Santa Barbara County and communities like Carpinteria to the south and Lompoc to the north.

2. What does the Alliance for Living and Dying Well want to accomplish?

The Alliance wants to provide more opportunities in the Santa Barbara community for safe and supportive settings for individuals to explore their relationship to the unknown, including death. The Alliance believes that conversations with loved ones about death and dying can alleviate some of the suffering that our members have seen countless times when difficult choices have to be made and wishes have not been discussed.

We also want to increase the number of people who have had these conversations and put their wishes in writing in the form of an Advance Care Directives like Santa Barbara's own MyCare or the Five Wishes document.

3. What programs and initiatives are being undertaken by the Alliance?

The Alliance conducts and supports a variety of programs and events that help people connect with friends and loved ones in conversations about the balance between life and death, and how to express wishes about end-of-life care.

We do this by:

  • Providing free monthly workshops throughout Santa Barbara to help people fill out and finalize their MyCare or other Advance Directive Forms
  • Creating and leveraging family/friends events in conjunction with area faith-based organizations and retirement homes to help members and residents have conversations about their end of life wishes and advance care directives
  • Implementing a local Circles of Trust® program, a national retreat program based on the work of Dr. Parker Palmer
  • Creating opportunities for people to share their end-of-life stories through different channels. The Alliance for Living and Dying Well believes that by sharing these stories, people can reduce their sense of isolation (See featured stories)
  • Co-sponsoring a variety of conferences and community educational events related to our mission. See the Calendar page for upcoming special events that are open to the public.

4. Why is an Advance Care Directive Important?

Every day, in hospitals across the country, families are struggling over whether to begin or continue life support treatment for a loved one. If your wishes were documented and clear to all, families would feel more comfortable with difficult decisions and be free to tend to their loved ones in more fulfilling ways.

Having an up-to-date Advanced Care Directive – a written document – is one of the best ways to ensure that your wishes will be honored.

  • “Where do I wish to die?”
  • “Who do I want to be with?”
  • “Under what circumstances do I wish to have life support, to be resuscitated?”
  • “Who do I want to express my wishes for me if I am not able?”

These are the questions the Alliance wants everyone to answer through conversations with loved ones. Everyone involved must understand what is important to you, particularly if you cannot speak for yourself.

Having a current Advance Care Directive is not only for those near the end of their lives. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 18 have one. ACDs should also be regularly updated, as situations, beliefs and wishes change over time.

Completing your Advanced Care Directive is also a gift to your loved ones. It will create comfort for them, as they will understand clearly what your wishes are if you cannot tell them at a critical time.  

5. What's the difference between MyCare and Five Wishes?

The Alliance for Living and Dying Well has used the the Five Wishes Advance Care Directive (ACD) document in its workshops and other public assistance efforts since its inception.  

Recently, a new, streamlined ACD has been developed here in Santa Barbara, and is being distributed free to the public by Cottage Health.  We now use MyCare in all our Advance Care Planning workhop.  Five Wishes documents may still be used by anyone who prefers them, and all previouly submitted Five Wishes documents remain legally valid.  

9. What is a Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)?

Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a medical order form on bright pink paper that indicates what types of life-sustaining treatment a seriously ill patient wants or doesn't want if his or her condition worsens. As patients move from the outpatient setting to hospitals or nursing homes, POLST forms ensure continuity of care and adherence to the patient's wishes and reduce the possibility of medical errors.

POLSTs also require a conversation between the patient and families and loved ones. The POLST form, signed by both the physician and the patient, becomes a tool to capture these discussions and make them part of the patient's medical record. The form moves with the patient, and California requires POLST be honored across all settings of care and provides immunity to providers who honor a POLST document in good faith.

10.  What's the difference between an Advance Care Directive and a POLST?

The POLST form is always recommended for people with chronic medical conditions that have a potential to land a person in the emergency room.  EMTs who enter the home in an emergency will look for the bright pink forms in the residence, and ER personnel will seek to know if the patient has a POLST.  The POLST is considered a physician's order and must be signed by a physician.

In contrast, the Advance Health Care Directive is recommended for everyone over age 18, even healthly people, to document their wishes for medical care.  The Advance Directive need not be signed by a doctor, but must either be signed by two witnesses or notarized by a Notary Public.