A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Advance care planning team offers critical service

Advance care planning - COVID-19

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has given you a laundry list of things to think about and there’s one more to consider adding to that list: Complete an advance directive.

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has given you a laundry list of things to think about and there’s one more to consider adding to that list.

Complete an advance directive.

Completing this very important document gives you and your family peace of mind and a chance to have meaningful conversations about your health and future wishes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “advance care planning is increasingly being viewed as a public health issue, given its potential to prevent unnecessary suffering and support an individual’s health care decisions and preferences.”

At this time, the CDC said 70% of Americans do not have an advance care plan in place. Penney Dupee, an Advance Care Planning coordinator for Marshfield Clinic Health System, and her colleagues want to see that number fall.

Advance care planning is a service the Health System offers that allows patients and families to work with an expert facilitator to put a plan in place for future medical decisions and preferences.

“Every day we don’t know what could happen to us,” said Dupee. “This has been true well before COVID-19, but now more people are thinking about having important decisions and documents in place. An advance directive should be one of them. People were thinking it was more about those over 65 with co-morbidities. But now we’re hearing about 20 year olds, 30 year olds, becoming ill and this is creating a sense of urgency. Those under 50 are seeing this is something they need to pay attention to and asking what they need to do to get this done.”

It’s really important for Wisconsin residents to have an advance directive in place because Wisconsin is not a next-of-kin state. This means if you experience an illness or injury that leaves you unable to communicate, family members cannot make health care decisions for you unless you have specified a health care agent in an advance directive.

“With this pandemic, we’re learning how quickly our health can change,” Dupee said. “You think about people being put on ventilators not able to communicate and no one can be in the hospital at their side. It’s imperative that you have this legal document completed and conversations with your loved ones so they can speak for you and follow your wishes.

“This is not only for the elderly. When we’re young we think we’re invincible but this pandemic is showing us it strikes people of all ages. It’s not just about death and dying. It’s about having a legal decision-maker at a point where you are determined to be incapacitated. You will have someone who can be your voice and state your health care wishes at a time when it’s so important.”

Dupee said it’s imperative that people with elderly parents, whether they have advance directives or not, talk with them about their wishes. If they’ve completed the advance directive she suggests having the conversation again in the event their wishes have changed. And, they may want to redo the document if needed.

Dupee and her colleagues are conducting appointments via phone. “People don’t have to go anywhere but can call,” she said. “We want to help and eliminate some fears and uncertainties.”

To schedule a no-cost appointment with an advance care planning facilitator, call 844-853-4106 or 715-221-7132. For more information on advance care planning, click here.

To see more about advance directives, click on these links:

https://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/wellness/podcast-advance-directives/

https://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/wellness/advance-directives-family-story/

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