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April 14, 2023

Advance Planning is Vital to Proper Patient Care

National Healthcare Decisions Day Supports Conversations to Help Ensure Wishes are Known

Health Care providers hope to bring more attention to the importance of Advance Care Planning and the Power of Attorney for Health Care document (POA-HC) this April. The month is recognized as National Healthcare Decisions Month, a time when patients are encouraged to express their wishes regarding health care. In addition to the month of recognition, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is Sunday, April 16, and can be used as a conversation-starter with family members, and help understand the benefits of completing a POA-HC.

“Accidents or illnesses can happen to any of us at any time, so it important to be prepared,” said Jenny Sanderfoot, MSW, Advance Care Planning Specialist for ThedaCare. “End-of-life situations are often stressful for families. Completing and discussing this document ahead of time can help make difficult decisions easier for your loved ones.”

A POA-HC is a legal document that details the kind of medical care you would want or not want, if there ever comes a time when you cannot speak for yourself. You also designate someone you trust (a health care agent) to make health care decisions in your place. 

It is especially important to have a POA-HC in Wisconsin, since it is not a next-of-kin state, which means family (including a spouse) cannot automatically make certain health care decisions for a loved one who is incapacitated.

“Documenting these decisions through a POA-HC is vital,” Sanderfoot said. “Without involving the court system, the only person who can make a decision about an incapacitated patient’s care is the person, or persons, named as the health care agent in the patient’s POA-HC.”

A legal professional is not necessary to prepare the documents for you and your family members. If you want to do it on your own, you may download a copy of the form online through ThedaCare Advance Care Planning.

ThedaCare offers free Advance Care Planning (ACP) class and clinics every month at eight different locations, making the process more accessible for community members. For more information, and to schedule an ACP Clinic appointment, please call 920.454.2969.

“Whether you are 18 or 98, we will help walk you through the document, answer all your questions, and make sure your wishes are communicated,” said Sanderfoot. “We also provide the witnesses, make copies, and then scan it right into your medical chart. It’s all done in one appointment.”

Sanderfoot says about 50% of ThedaCare patients age 65 and older have a POA-HC on file. The percentage drops significantly with younger adults.

“Advance Care Planning is about doing what you can do to ensure that the health care treatment you receive is consistent with your wishes and preferences,” Sanderfoot added. “Having a completed POA-HC is really a gift to our families at a critical time, especially if the family members have talked through what they would want or not want.” 

Additional resources can be found at the Fox Valley Advance Care Planning Partnership or by calling 920.997.8412.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.

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