WAUSAU, Wis. – Who will speak for you if you have a sudden health crisis and are unable to make your medical wishes known?

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day – the perfect time to complete an Advance Directive, a simple and free document that shares your medical wishes with your loved ones and care team.

Wisconsin is not a ‘next-of-kin’ state. This means your family members are not automatically authorized to make medical decisions for you in the event you cannot, unless you have a completed Advance Directive naming them as your health care agent. Without an Advance Directive, you may need a court-appointed guardian – a process that can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining for your loved ones.  

“Having an Advance Directive is one of the best gifts you can give the people you love,” said Heidi Kraege, CSW, Advance Care Planning Coordinator for Aspirus. “Everyone 18 and older is encouraged to complete and Advance Directive. Unexpected medical events and accidents can happen at any time and documenting your wishes is the best way to be prepared for an unpredictable situation. Competing your Advance Directive and naming who you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are ever unable to do so is quick, free and easy to complete. This can help avoid extra stress on your loved ones if an unforeseen medical event or accident were to ever occur.”

The person you name as your health care agent should be someone who knows your values and wishes, and who you trust to follow them. It’s important to note that your health care agent can only make medical decisions for you after doctors have determined you are incapable of making them yourself.

Advance Directives also give you an opportunity to specify the care you want – or don’t want. For example, you can state your wishes about:

• CPR (if your heart or breathing stops).
• Tube Feeding
• Extended care on a breathing machine.
• Tests, medicines, surgeries or blood transfusions.

There are several ways you can complete an Advance Directive. You can use a document provided by your hospital or clinic, like the one available at aspirus.org/advance-directives.

Completing your own Advance Directive is free and fairly simple. Just fill out the form, carefully following the instructions on how to sign it and have your signature witnessed by two people not related to you. Then give copies to your clinic, hospital and loved ones. Be sure to also give a copy to the person you’ve designated to speak for you. Keep your original in a place that is easily accessible and easy to find. Be sure to review it regularly in case you need to update it.

You can find more information, including printable forms and frequently asked questions, at aspirus.org/advance-directives. Aspirus offers free Advance Care Planning appointments locally in the Wausau region. To schedule an appointment near you, call the Aspirus Customer Contact Center weekdays at 800-847-4707. You may also call the Contact Center to request a free Advance Care planning kit.