Advance Care Planning 101

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adult daughter with her mother at unitypoint health - meriter

Advance Care Planning is one of the best gifts you can give the people you love, and it starts with a conversation.

In honor of National Health Care Decisions Week from April 16-22, we would like to help you begin the conversation with loved ones about your health care preferences if left unable to communicate due to illness or injury - a process called advance care planning. Many times, families do not talk to each other about their wishes until a medical incident has already happened. As a social worker and advance care planning facilitator, I have seen how this creates very stressful and emotional situations for the patient and their families. 

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning provides information about your health care preferences for treatment to your family and health care providers in case illness or injury prevents you from telling them yourself. Indicating your own treatment wishes with advance planning ensures you get the care you intended. When you put these preferences in writing, it is called a Power of Attorney for Health Care. The best time to do this is before a medical crisis occurs. 

Reflect on Your Values

Who you are, what you believe and what you value are all shaped by your experiences. Has anything happened in your past that shaped your feelings about medical treatment? Do you have health issues now? What kinds of activities bring you so much joy that if a health problem prevented you from doing them, life would have little meaning? Reflecting on your experiences will help you clarify your beliefs and decide what is most important to you. 

Choose a Health Care Agent

An important part of planning is to appoint someone to make health care decisions if you are unable to communicate. Many people select a close family member or friend. Advance care planning focuses on not only appointing an agent that is able to carry out your wishes, but also talking with that person and making sure they are willing to serve as your agent and are truly prepared to make decisions for you. 

Some questions you may reference when you are thinking about someone to appoint are: 

  • Are they willing to accept this responsibility?
  • Is this person willing to follow your wishes, even if he or she does not always agree with them?
  • Can this person manage conflict and make decisions in sometimes difficult situations?

Take Action and Start the Conversation Today!

We offer two different options for Advance Care Planning in which you will have the opportunity to discuss your treatment preferences, appoint your health care agent and complete your written Power of Attorney for Health Care:

Advance Care Planning Individual Visits:

We offer FREE visits with a trained Advance Care Planning facilitator. For more information, please call Nursing Services at (608) 417-6010.

Advance Care Planning Group:

Attend an Advance Care Planning SeminarThis group is held the third Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7:00pm at our Monona Clinic

Click here to register for the free Advance Care Planning Seminar.