Don't Wait for a Crisis: Why You Need an Advance Directive Today

Elderly patient in hospital bedWhat if you couldn't speak for yourself in a medical emergency? At Door County Medical Center (DCMC), we believe in empowering patients to prepare for such situations. By guiding individuals in the creation and implementation of advance directives, we ensure that their voices are heard and respected, even when they cannot speak for themselves.

What are Advance Directives and Why Are They Important?

An advance directive is a legal document that allows individuals to outline their healthcare preferences, ensuring their wishes are honored even if they are unable to communicate them in the future.

The two most commonly used advance directives in healthcare are the Power of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC) and the Declaration to Health Care Professionals (Wisconsin Living Will). The POAHC allows individuals to appoint a trusted person, a healthcare agent, to make medical decisions if they become incapacitated. "This person is responsible for making decisions that are consistent with your wishes, values, and beliefs," explains DCMC Chaplain John Hauser.

The Declaration to Health Care Professionals or Wisconsin Living Will, enables individuals to specify their preferences regarding life-sustaining treatments and feeding tubes in certain medical situations.

The Impact of Advance Directives on End-of-Life Care

Concerned doctor talking to familyThe absence of advance directives can pose challenges for healthcare providers and families when making critical decisions about a patient's care. Without clear guidance from the patient, determining the appropriate course of action can be complex and may result in delays or decisions that do not align with the patient's wishes. This not only adds complexity to the situation but also intensifies the emotional strain on a patient's loved ones.

"Individuals generally recognize the importance of having their wishes documented, but they frequently don't have a sense of urgency to get the form completed," says Hauser. "We do our best to encourage them to act sooner rather than later and to help them recognize that completing the form ensures that their values will be honored in future healthcare decisions."

Navigating the Advance Directive Process

Our team of experienced social workers and chaplains provides tailored support to assist individuals in navigating advance directives.

Person filling out healthcare documentsWhen you schedule a consultation at DCMC, you can expect a comprehensive overview of what advance directives are, assistance in clarifying your healthcare preferences, and help with filling out the necessary forms. These sessions are designed to be both thorough and concise, typically lasting between 15 to 30 minutes, and can be arranged according to the patient's convenience. Importantly, there is no charge for these services, and patients are welcome to schedule additional appointments as needed.

Additional Resources and Events

April 16 marks National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), when people are encouraged, regardless of age or health status, to create an advance directive. To kick off NHDD, Hauser and Erin Szakala, MSW, are hosting free informational events open to the public. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about advance directives, and both Szakala and Hauser will be available immediately after the presentations to answer questions and assist with document witnessing.

In addition to the resources provided by DCMC, Hauser suggests that those seeking further information reach out to local community organizations such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center, hospice/home health agencies, and churches. Valuable resources and information can also be found online through non-profit organizations like the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR) and The Conversation Project.

At DCMC, we are committed to ensuring that patients have the knowledge and resources they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare. By completing advance directives, individuals can assert their autonomy and ensure that their values and preferences are respected, even in challenging circumstances. To learn more about advance directives or to schedule a meeting, please call (920)743-5566 and ask to speak with a social worker or chaplain.

Published 4/5/2024 6:00:00 AM
Tags: advance directive, healthcare decisions, news

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