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April 16 2016

Waukesha hunter becomes advocate for advance care planning

Sydney “Syd,” 81, just wrapped up teaching a hunter safety class and is angling to get out on the river for walleye fishing. Geese and pheasant seasons have come and gone, the birds have been smoked or turned into jerky or sausage, and turkey season is coming up. After that will be summer umpire responsibilities for more than 50 Elm Grove Recreation Department softball games.

Syd and his wife Janet are ready for all of this, and more. After learning about the importance of advance care planning at a free class led by ProHealth Care’s Advance Care Planning Coordinator Melissa Hale in January, the Waukesha couple started the process of discussing and documenting their preferences for future medical treatment.

“I hadn’t even thought about it before the class,” Syd said. “I listened to people at the class who couldn’t do anything about their family members’ wishes and decided that we had to do something. One thing led to the next and we’re completing our plans.”

Advance care planning is the process of exploring, discussing and documenting future medical preferences, including end of life treatment. The first aspect of advance care planning is deciding who you would want to speak for you if you could not speak for yourself. This advocate is called a health care agent. The second part is exploring living will preferences, which includes what type of medical care you would want in certain medical scenarios.

“Many people are not aware that Wisconsin is not a next-of-kin state,” Hale said. “If anything happened to you and you couldn’t speak for yourself, without an advance directive your loved ones wouldn’t necessarily have the legal authority to make decisions for you. That is why it is so crucial to put your wishes and values into writing.”

Syd and Janet took the advance care planning class after losing a family member to cancer at the end of 2015; they are now handling the estate of their loved one. At the advance care planning class, participants received information, documents and personal assistance to help them get started on planning for health care decisions that might need to be made by their family in the future. They later followed up with Hale at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, choosing health care agents, completing advance care directives and power of attorney documents, and after that, power of finance and other legal documents with an attorney.

“Now I’m telling people why they need to do this,” said Syd, who is retired from a 39-year teaching career and 28 years with the National Guard. “I’ve talked about it with other hunters and at the Schuetze Rec Center Golden Agers group.”

At ProHealth Care advance planning classes, ProHealth staff walk adults (18 years and older) through how to choose a health care agent and identify their medical preferences for the future. A review of the Wisconsin state document and assistance completing an advance care document are also provided. Participants are encouraged to bring loved ones along. Registration is required at ProHealthCare.org/Classes or by calling 262-928-2745. 

Make your wishes known

The purpose of advance care planning is to make important health care decisions in advance, share them with loved ones and health care providers, and give you and those you care about peace of mind.

An important part of advance care planning is choosing a health care agent – someone who will respect and advocate for your wishes should you be unable to speak for yourself.

Without advance planning and documentation:

  • The care you receive may not reflect your wishes

  • Your health care professionals may not know your treatment preferences

  • Your family may have a difficult time and not know what actions to take

  • Your doctors may not know who to speak with on your behalf in case of an emergency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 70 percent of people overall say they prefer to die at home. Unfortunately, 70 percent of people overall die in a hospital, nursing home or long-term-care facility.

Information about advance care planning, including questions and answers, a glossary of legal terms, power of attorney forms, and many other resources, is available at http://www.ProHealthCare.org/Patient-Guest-Services-Advance-Directives.aspx. To speak to a ProHealth Care professional about advance care planning, call 262-928-2450.​

A Wisconsin Medical Society video about advance care planning can be accessed at https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/hcw/.

Related Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/features/advancedcareplanning/.


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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.