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November 14, 2019

Make Your Healthcare Wishes Known

An advance directive provides caregivers with information about what kinds of treatment you do or do not want in an emergency when you are unable to make decisions.

ThedaCare Supports Critical Care Conversations to Help Ease Family Decisions

November 14, 2019

APPLETON, Wis. – Does your family know what your wishes are for your healthcare should you become unable to direct that care? An advance directive provides caregivers with information about what kinds of treatment you do or do not want in an emergency when you are unable to make decisions. 
A Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA-HC) is a legal document that names someone to make healthcare decisions for you, should you be unable to direct that care. It does not necessarily need to be prepared by a lawyer, but it does have legal requirements to be valid.
“Having a power of attorney for healthcare is one of the most important documents related to your health,” said Hope McPeake, APNP, a hospitalist at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. “We tend to think of such documents as needed by older people. It is recommended anyone over 18 years-old have one. Parents are accustomed to being able to make healthcare decisions for/with their children. Once their son or daughter turns 18, parents lose that authority.”
If someone is admitted to the hospital and cannot make decisions about their care, it is important to have the document in place. 
“In absence of a POA-HC, legal guardianship may need to be established before we can provide certain treatments,” said McPeake. “That can become a very costly legal process and can end up with someone unknown to the patient or his/her family making decisions about that individual’s healthcare, which may affect their life from that point moving forward.”
McPeake stressed that in addition to having the legal document it’s also important to communicate your wishes to your family. 
“There’s rarely a whole family who agrees about ‘what mom would want’ when they are in the midst of a critical care situation,” she said. “That’s why we are encouraging families to have these conversations when everyone’s gathered together for the upcoming holidays or other family events. It’s critical that everyone understands what their loved ones wishes are.”
She added that it’s the responsibility of the POA-HC to make decisions according to the wishes of the person they are representing, not their own personal wishes. 
McPeake explained there are a number of resources available in the Fox Valley to assist families. ThedaCare hosts advance planning sessions on the third Thursday of every month at Encircle Health, 2500 E. Capital Drive, Appleton, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in its first floor conference room. The classes provide information about why advance planning matters and help participants complete their power of attorney for healthcare.
The ThedaCare Advance Care Planning team offers these guidelines for preparing an Advance Directive; copies are available at your physician’s office and can be downloaded from the Policies and Legal Forms page on
  • You do not need a lawyer to complete the form, and it should not be notarized. 
  • All pages of the document must be kept together, even if they are optional. (Missing pages make the document invalid.) 
  • Do not cross out any mistakes. Do not write on the document after it is signed.  
  • All signature dates need to match.
  • You will need two witnesses to sign in front of who meet the following criteria:
  • Must be 18 or older.
  • Not be a family member by blood, marriage or adoption.
  • Not be anyone who will benefit from your estate. Cannot be your POA-HC.
  • Not be your healthcare provider (doctor, nurses, etc.).
  • Can be a social worker or chaplain.
If you have additional questions Jenny Sanderfoot, a ThedaCare Advanced Care Planning Specialist, is available to assist families. She can be reached by calling 920.358.1219 or emailing Group and individual sessions are available.
Another resource is the Fox Valley Advance Care Planning Partnership, where community members can find area classes and assistance with preparing documents and having healthcare conversations. The Partnership is the result of ongoing community collaboration to make advance care planning and conversations an integral part of living. To contact, visit or call 920.997.8412.
“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 in such situations,” said McPeake. “Having had the conversation makes it easier to make decisions with more confidence.”
About ThedaCare
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. 
For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.
Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.