Skip to main content

New Ulm Medical Center

Advance care planning: Make your health care wishes known

Allina Health has support staff who are trained and certified to help you and your family members with advance care planning. For information or an appointment, call the Allina Health Care Navigation Help Desk at 651-635-9173 or 1-800-261-0879.

What if you had a stroke and sustained irreversible brain damage? Would you want machines to keep you alive?

What if you had terminal cancer? Would you want doctors to try and prolong your life with the latest treatments? Or would you want to spend your final days resting comfortably at home or in hospice care?

According to the Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care, 70 to 80 percent of all Americans will face medical decisions such as these, especially as they get older.

You may know what you would want your doctors and family to do. But you could be too ill to communicate your wishes to those who must make the decisions for you.

“That’s why we recommend every adult have an advance care plan,” said Dr. Joan Krikava, medical director of New Ulm Medical Center.

Wishes in writing

An advance care plan or health care directive is a written document in which you express your wishes for medical treatment. Your family and friends would only use the directive to make decisions for you if you were unable to make them yourself, Krikava said.

“Ideally, everyone over the age of 18 should have an advance care plan,” Krikava said. But certainly those 65 or older — whether they are in good health or sick — should have one, she said.

Too often, people don’t think about their wishes about end of life care, and decisions have to be made in a crisis, Krikava said.

A health care directive is about honoring choices, Krikava said. While having a discussion and putting your wishes in writing can seem daunting, family and friends appreciate that you did. If they’re faced with decisions, knowing they are choosing what you would have wanted can comfort them, she said. “If your loved one has never said anything to you about their wishes, it can be very stressful.”

Free help writing directives

New Ulm Medical Center is eager to help people who are interested in writing an advance care plan. “If you are seriously ill and getting home-care services, we have social workers or volunteers who will come to your home and help you write an advance care plan,” Krikava said.

New Ulm Medical Center also has two members of its administrative support staff who have been trained and are certified to help people address these issues and write their directives. You can make an appointment to sit down with one of them and work on yours at no charge.

Visits are 90 minutes. “Sometimes people need a follow-up visit because they want to go home and think about some things,” Krikava said. “These are big decisions.”

If you can, bring a friend or family member who would make decisions for you if needed, Krikava advised. “If they can’t come with you, the next best thing is to talk over your document with them after you have completed it.”

Form doesn’t have to be official

When writing your directive, you need to be clear. “Especially if there are things you don’t want, like being resuscitated or kept on life support,” Krikava said.

The state of Minnesota has a form you can use for your directive. “It’s very user friendly and a simple form to fill out,” Krikava said. But you don’t have to use the official form. You can make up your own as long as it’s in writing, she said.

You should review your directive every couple of years, Krikava said. “This is like any other legal document. It should be updated periodically so that it reflects how you feel today.”

Give a copy of your directive to your appointed spokesperson/decision-maker. Keep a copy for yourself and give a copy to your local hospital for your medical records.

“We have electronic medical records here and when we get the paper document we will scan it into the computer and add it to your file,” Krikava said. “Should you seek emergency care, the first thing the staff treating you will see is your advance care plan.”


Source: New Ulm Medical Center - Health Edition
Reviewed by: Joan Krikava, MD
First Published: 05/01/2013
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2013