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April 13, 2021

ThedaCare Supports National Health Care Decisions Day

Physician Recommends Families Discuss Advance Care Planning Options

NEENAH, Wis. – April is National Healthcare Decisions month, focusing on the importance of Advance Care Planning and everyone over the age of 18 having a completed Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA-HC). In 2021, National Healthcare Decisions Day is recognized on Friday, April 16.

“It is very important to speak with your loved ones about your health care goals and wishes,” said Timothy Jessick, DO, Post-Acute Medical Director at ThedaCare. “This should happen not only at end-of-life, but throughout a person’s lifetime. Let’s support normalizing advance care planning, which is the process of talking about and documenting your future health care wishes, and how loved ones can help honor those wishes.”

A POA-HC is a legal document that names someone to make health care decisions for you – i.e., a health care agent – should you ever be unable to direct or communicate that care. It does not need to be prepared by a lawyer.

“It’s never too early to have a POA-HC,” said Jenny Sanderfoot, MSW, Advance Care Planning Specialist for ThedaCare. “Accidents or illnesses can happen to any of us at any time, so it’s important to be prepared.”

Sanderfoot explained that Wisconsin is not a “next of kin” state, meaning that a spouse or immediate family member cannot automatically speak for a family member who is incapacitated and cannot direct their care.

According to Dr. Jessick, everyone over the age of 18 should have a POA-HC and it should be on file with their primary care provider and local hospital. We tend to think of such documents as only needed by older people, but anyone over 18 needs one. Parents are accustomed to being able to make health-care decisions for/with their children, but once their son or daughter turns 18, parents lose that authority.

“Advance care planning and completing an advance directive can be one of the best gifts you can provide for your family and for your patients,” said Dr. Jessick. “An advance directive will help empower you and guide our care teams to help you fulfill your goals, values and wishes.”

Sanderfoot said there are two components to Advance Care Planning:

  1. The POA-HC document itself, which is what health care systems need to acknowledge a legal decision maker.
  2. The ongoing discussions that should be held between the person and those whom they name as their health care agents.

“Many end-of-life situations are stressful for families,” Sanderfoot said. “With a plan in place and discussions held ahead of time, your health care agent can focus on making decisions according to your wishes.”

ThedaCare provides free assistance to anyone wishing to complete a POA-HC as part of its participation in the Fox Valley Advance Care Planning Partnership (, a community-wide initiative working to normalize advance care planning and conversations for people of all ages. That group also includes Ascension Health, Mosaic Family Health and representatives from the greater Fox Valley community. FVACPP is coordinating a series of events for National Healthcare Decisions Day. For more information, visit:

Sanderfoot is also available to assist families. Call her at 920.358.1219 or email For more information about Advance Care Planning and to download the POA-HC document please visit:   

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health 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 seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique 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 on a patient’s 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 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.