April 12, 2024

UW Health encourages advance care planning prior to a health crisis

Tuesday, April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

MADISON, Wis. – In the last two years, more than 5,000 people have benefited from expanded advance care planning services at UW Health.

Advance care planning is the process of planning ahead for one’s own future health care decisions to let others know what types of medical care they want if an unexpected event like a car accident or sudden illness happens, and they are unable to speak for themselves. Free advance care planning services are available to adult patients who get their care in any of the 22 UW Health primary care clinics across Wisconsin.

The process of advance care planning is very important for people of any age, health or socioeconomic status, and thankfully not that complicated, according to Dr. Mark Micek, medical director of population health, UW Health, and associate clinical professor of medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

It begins with thinking about who to trust if someone can’t make health care decisions for themselves, he said.

“You never know what the future holds,” he said. “That is why I encourage patients to talk openly about their goals and values with their provider and their loved ones.”

Once those conversations begin, it is important to record personal preferences and complete a power of attorney for health care, which is the legal document that can allow a person to make health care decisions on behalf of another person if something happens, according to Parini Tolat, advance care planning program coordinator, UW Health.

“The process of advance care planning should help patients feel empowered instead of stressed,” she said. “We want to reach as many people as we can because it is in your best interest to indicate who you want to speak on your behalf rather than having someone else decide for you."

The process can take as little as 10 minutes, according to Micek.

“It’s a small investment of time that can yield invaluable peace of mind,” he said. “People often think advance care planning is just talking about death, but really it is a discussion about how you want to live.”

To increase awareness about the importance of advance care planning, UW Health offers free webinars that go over the steps necessary to complete a Wisconsin power of attorney for health care. These webinars are available to the public, regardless of where people get their care.

Wisconsin, unlike some states, is not a “next-of-kin” or “family consent” state, which means that Wisconsin law does not allow next of kin to make decisions in certain situations. Illinois, on the other hand, is a next-of-kin state. Without a power of attorney for health care in Wisconsin, a person’s loved ones might need to seek legal guardianship through the court system which can be costly, stressful and time-consuming, so completing a free power of attorney for health care prior to a health crisis can help to avoid that, according to Mary Arbuckle, advance care planning program coordinator, UW Health.

“By giving your loved ones clarity about what you would want and what is most important, you can reduce conflict and prevent some stress during an unexpected emotionally taxing medical situation,” she said.

Tuesday is National Healthcare Decisions Day, which was founded in 2008 to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.