Five things to know about Health Care Directives


April 2020

By: Kathy Rasmussen, MSW
Social Services, Amery Hospital & Clinic

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, so it’s a perfect time to talk about a Health Care Directive.

“We don’t know what to do; Dad never told us if he wanted to be resuscitated.” And, “what do we do if we are asked about a feeding tube?” These are just a few of the many questions asked when families are unprepared for a medical crisis. In my experience at Amery Hospital & Clinic and working in long-term care for many years, I’ve seen families struggle with these difficult questions.

When I was in college, my grandma was in a nursing home with advanced dementia. She developed pneumonia and other complications. I remember my parents agonizing over what would Grandma want.

I had the privilege of being with both of my parents at the end of their life. We had discussed at length their wishes for end of life care which included DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). I had to make the tough decision to honor my dad’s wishes and follow his DNR orders. It was still a painful decision, but I was grateful that we talked so his wishes could be honored.

Like many of you, I had my own form sitting on my desk waiting to be done. I followed my own advice and completed my Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA/HC). It’s a good feeling knowing my family will be able to make these tough decisions while honoring my wishes.

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Amery Hospital & Clinic is encouraging everyone to plan ahead and create a Health Care Directive. Talking about unexpected events and end-of-life can be an uncomfortable subject sometimes, but planning ahead and making sure those around you know your wishes makes all the difference. Amery Hospital & Clinic has a wide range of free resources available to you to help you start the conversation with your loved ones and complete a directive.

What is a Health Care Directive?

A Health Care Directive is the written plan you make for your future medical treatments. It’s also the document in which you can identify someone to communicate your wishes if you are unable to do so – this person is your health care agent, also known as a power of attorney for health care. A directive describes the medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you would or would not want if you were unable to speak for yourself.

Give copies of your signed directive to your health care agent, your doctor and health care team, family members and anyone else you want to know about your future health care wishes. Keep the original document easily available at your home.

Why is it important?

Completing a Health Care Directive helps to make sure your family and health care team follow your wishes. It is also valuable to have a quality conversation with the important people in your life about your values and goals for care across the continuum of life.

When should I create a directive?

We recommend adults 18 years and older start the advance care planning process. Review and update your Health Care Directive whenever you have a significant change in health status or life circumstances.

How can I convince my loved ones around me to complete a directive?

Health Care Directives are completely optional. However, try talking to your loved ones about the benefits of having a plan now, instead of in the middle of a crisis. Everyone has different values and priorities, especially when it comes to their own health care, and documenting those wishes are the best way to ensure they can be followed when needed.

Can I get help in making a directive?

If you have questions, or if you aren’t sure how to get started, there are many resources available to you. Call 715-268-0682 for Advance Care Planning help.

Talk with your doctor or clinician about your health directive and what’s important to you. If you don’t have a doctor or clinician, make a video or telephone appointment with one of Amery Hospital & Clinic’s clinicians on our care team.

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