Making Informed Decisions About Advanced Care Choices

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Larry Meiller finds out how choices and desires should be documented, and how to start those potentially difficult conversations.

Featured in this Show

  • Talking With Loved Ones About End-Of-Life Choices Is Key, Says Advanced Care Planning Expert

    Even though the prospect of death isn’t necessarily a pleasant thing to think about, it’s nevertheless important for people to make decisions about the kind of end-of-life care they’d prefer, according to an advance care planning coordinator with University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

    In addition, said Mia Morrisette, it’s also important to talk with loved ones and health care providers to make sure that those wishes are known and honored.

    Morisette suggested that a good place to start when making such decisions is looking at the end-of-life experiences of loved ones.

    “Look at what went well with that person’s end-of-life process, and what didn’t. Start thinking about how you would apply that to your own end-of-life decisions,” Morrisette said.

    There are many choices that can be made as part of preparing for end-of-life care, but Morrisette said that one question in particular is the most important to consider: “Who will speak for you in the case that you can’t speak for yourself? That’s really crucial,” she said.

    In her experience, Morrisette said, people will often default to their oldest child or their spouse. She encouraged people to really think about whether that’s the best person to entrust with health care decision-making in the event they can’t act on their own behalf.

    “You want someone that you really trust, someone who willingly accepts the responsibility, and they’re willing to follow your values and instructions you’ve discussed with them — even if they disagree with that,” Morrisette said.

    According to Morrisette, documenting end-of-life decisions is important, but conversations with loved ones are really the foundation of the process. It’s vital, she said, that all interested and involved parties are aware of the choices a person makes, the reasoning behind them, and how those wishes should be carried out.

    The most common document for these purposes is the Advance Directive, which includes the health care power of attorney. Morrisette encouraged people to think of it as a dynamic document, not a “once-and-done deal.” She recommended reviewing it regularly, and amending it as needed.

    Morrisette did caution that there are restrictions on who can serve as a witness to the document, so it’s wise to ensure that eligible people are chosen.

    Once the document is completed, it’s important that it’s accessible when it’s needed. Morrisette recommended providing copies to close family members and health care providers.

    Conversations about the end of one’s own life, or the end of a parent’s life, are not easy. But Morrisette hopes that the importance of those discussions will outweigh any discomfort.

    “What I find from my work with patients, and what I’ve learned when I’m out and about talking with people is that they are rich and rewarding discussions if you can just get over that barrier,” Morrisette said.

    For more information on advanced care planning, you can visit the Honoring Choices Wisconsin web site.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Mia Morrisette Guest