Advance care planning: Make your own health care choices

Advance care planning is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and to your loved ones. We can help.

It takes courage to plan ahead and think about a time in the future when you may not be able to make healthcare decisions for yourself or you are not able to communicate your preferences. By planning ahead, you can find comfort that your current and future care preferences are in writing and will guide your loved ones so they will not have the burden of guessing what you would want if you could not speak for yourself about medical decisions.

Watch: Have the Conversation (National Institute on Aging)

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Classes and registration

This free one-hour Advance Care Planning workshop helps you plan ahead and think about a time in the future when you may not be able to make healthcare decisions for yourself. You will learn about the importance of advance care planning and receive step by step guidance on how to complete a Wisconsin Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Note: This class is focused on advance care planning for Wisconsin residents.

Class sessions

Classes are held for one hour through an online program called Webex. To register for a class, select the "Register for a class" button below and complete the form. Once you register, a link to the Webex meeting will be emailed to you.

Register for a class

Advance care planning (ACP) helps you reflect on and identify what is important to you. You, your loved ones and your care team will have a better understanding of your current and future care preferences. Advance care planning will help you prepare your legal document.

Advance Directive

An advance directive is a legal document that:

  1. Names your healthcare agent (a person whom you trust, respect and can be your advocate to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself)

  2. Identifies your healthcare preferences and special requests

Advance care planning is an important part of your healthcare planning. By having your healthcare preferences in writing, your loved ones will understand what you want and will have the peace of mind that they are honoring your wishes.

Discussing personal preferences and acknowledging different perspectives can be an emotional experience for you and your loved ones. Our Advance Care Planning Facilitators and staff can provide thoughtful guidance to help you identify and express your healthcare wishes and any end-of-life requests.

We can help you complete advance care planning documents:

Advance care planning is the process of planning for your future healthcare needs. An advance directive is a record of that process. While it can be hard to think about, it is important to document your wishes so your family, loved ones and healthcare team can know how you would like to be cared for.

As you plan, you may hear some terms, including:

Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA-HC) – You can name another person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. They are called your “agent.” They can be a spouse, a parent, adult child, sibling or even a friend. Your healthcare team will need to communicate with them about your condition and they will need to share what your wishes would be.

Living will – A document where you can specify preferences for life prolonging treatments you would or would not want if you are in a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. This document does not designate a decision maker.

Power of Attorney for Finance and Property – You can name another person to manage your financial matters. UW Health does not assist with this particular document. Forms can be found online or you can speak with your attorney.

Forms - Advance Directives | Wisconsin Department of Health Services

We encourage you to work with our advance care planning facilitators, social workers, chaplains or attend a class to make sure the forms are completed correctly and become part of your formal medical record.

Sudden illnesses or accidents can happen at any age. To make sure your wishes are known before you are faced with a medical crisis, any individual over age 18 can complete advance care planning.

Your healthcare wishes and preferences can change with life events or experiences. It is important to reflect on what's important to you and to make updates as your life changes. We can help you complete a new form if you want to make changes.

There is no cost to complete an advance care planning appointment or advance directive through UW Health.

  • When there is no advance directive, doctors may turn to adult family members to make decisions in the short term. Being a family member does not automatically make someone a healthcare agent. It is legally recommended you completed an advance directive to name healthcare agents who act as your voice if you are unable to make your own decisions.

  • Sometimes family members don't agree about what should happen When this happens, a guardian may need to be appointed by a judge. This takes both time and money.

You should keep the original in a safe place that is accessible by others.

You should give copies to your healthcare agent(s) the person(s) you named to make healthcare decisions for you to your primary care physician, and to the hospitals and clinics at which you receive care.

You can mail a copy directly to:

UW Health
Health Information Management
Attn: Advance Directive Coordinator
8501 Excelsior Drive
Madison, WI 53717