Advance Directives

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Advance Care Planning

Important documents for all adult patients

As part of good medical care for you and your family, it’s important for all patients to have advance directive documents filed with your provider.

An advance directive is a legal document that states how you want your health care decisions to be made if you become incapacitated or cannot express your wishes. An advance directive helps guide your doctor and your loved ones about the care you wish to receive.

Both the Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians (Living Will), when properly completed and signed, are essential parts of good planning and medical care. They not only help physicians, family and friends honor your wishes, but also relieve the pressure of decision-making at a potentially stressful time. Below you will find how to prepare and submit these important documents.  

The overall goal of this preparatory work is that your health wishes will be respected. An equally important aspect of this preparation is to have the discussion about your wishes with family, friends and your doctor.

> Power of attorney for health care

The most important document is the Power of Attorney for Health Care form, which allows you to appoint someone to make treatment decisions on your behalf if you're unable to so.

The person you appoint should be:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • aware of your values and wishes
  • willing to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes
  • able to communicate your wishes to the health care team.

Your agent may be a spouse, trusted relative or friend. This document can also include information that specifies your treatment preferences.

> Declaration to physicians (living will)

Living Will

This is a type of advance directive that lists specific medical preferences. It is sometimes used as an addendum to a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. It's also called a “directive to physicians,” “health care declaration” or “medical directive.”

Note: This form can be used when an agent is difficult to assign. In such case, one can work with their physician to discuss and complete this form.

> How to prepare your form(s)

To complete a Power of Attorney for Health Care form and/or a Declaration to Physicians, follow these steps:
 

  • Locate and download Advance Directives Forms
  • Before filling out your forms, it is important to choose an agent/proxy who will honor your wishes. They do not need to live in the same state as you. And talk with them about your wishes/preferences.
  • Complete the Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or Declaration to Physicians form.
  • Have the forms signed and witnessed. You do not need an attorney to complete advance directive forms, but it is important to follow state-specific directions to assure that the forms are legally valid. You can consult an attorney if you prefer.
  • Once completed, bring the forms to your doctor so they can be filed as part of your medical director. Keep your original, and make extra copies for yourself and your agent.
  • If your primary language is not English, we have translation services available.
  • If you have questions, to call your clinic and ask for a social work appointment.
  • Safely store your forms with your other legal documents in an accessible place. A copy could also be sent to your attorney- (optional.) Make sure key people in your life know where these documents are kept.
  • Some people choose to make and carry a wallet card which indicates where these forms are located and/or the name and contact information for their attorney.

> How to submit your form(s)

Submit your completed forms to a physician's office or,
SSM Health Central Storage Warehouse
Health Information
PO Box 259840
Madison, WI 53725

> What if I have issues locating electronic forms?

If you aren't able to locate or download forms, you can request up to two forms free of charge by sending a stamped, self-addressed business-sized envelope to the Wisconsin Department of Health & Human Services:
Power of Attorney
Division of Public Health
PO Box 2659
Madison, WI 53701-2659

-or-

Many clinic sites have forms available. Do not hesitate at your next visit to ask your doctor for advance directive forms.

> Important details

Did you know:

  • 90 percent say talking to loved ones about end-of-life wishes is important
  • 27 percent have actually discussed this topic with loved ones
  • 80 percent want their doctor to talk about end-of-life issues
  • 7 percent say their doctor has talked about end-of-life care


Don’t forget:

  • You can make an appointment with any of your doctors to discuss advance care planning. This is a billable service.
  • You may state in the Power of Attorney for Health Care any types of health care that you do or do not desire.
  • You may limit the authority of your health care agent.
  • You may indicate an alternate health care agent if your primary agent is ever unable or unwilling to make decisions for you.
  • If you have appointed an agent for Power of Attorney for Finance and Property, this person does not have the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, unless you have also appointed them as agent for Power of Attorney for Health Care. It is common for people to appoint one agent for health care decisions and another agent to handle financial matters.
  • If you also have a valid Declaration to Physicians (Living Will), the Power of Attorney for Health Care supersedes any conflicting directives in the living will. In other words, your agent has the authority to make a different decision from your Declaration to Physicians/Living Will, if the declaration does not match what they understand to be your treatment preferences and wishes. You should be sure that the person you appoint as your agent is someone you trust and who will always honor your wishes.
  • Two physicians, or a physician and a psychologist, must declare that you no longer have capacity to make decisions for yourself (e.g. a persistent vegetative state or lost mental capacity), before your agent can make health care decisions on your behalf.

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Read more about Advance Directives on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

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