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Class helps plan advance directives for those over 18

By Julia Wolf

Who would speak for you, if you were unable to speak for yourself? Attendees are encouraged to think through their answer, during a class Caring Conversations: Advance Care Planning.

The class will be held Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 6-8 p.m., at the Cornell Elementary School. Michelle Wiensch, a registered nurse at Marshfield Clinic, will lead the free class, open to anyone 18 or older.

During the class, attendees will get help filling out advance directives and reflect on their values, goals and religious beliefs.

“Advance care planning is about having conversations about what your goals for medical care are, who you’d want to have make decisions for you if you couldn’t speak and reflecting on your values,” said Wiensch.

Wiensch says anyone over the age of 18, should have an advance directive in place, because Wisconsin is not a nextof- kin law state. That means family members, including spouses and children, do not have the right to make medical decisions for their loved ones.

Those without an advance directive in place, get a guardian appointed by the state to make medical decisions on their behalf. If a family member wants to be appointed, it can take up to a few months in court, which also comes with a cost.

“So, we are encouraging everybody to have these conversations with their family and everyone to fill out an advance directive,” said Wiensch.

Wiensch says an advance directive includes who you would want to make decisions for you, goals for medical care and end-of-life circumstances, such as autopsies and organ donation.

“It’s about making a plan before you need it,” said Wiensch.

Wiensch encourages those attending to bring the phone numbers and addresses of the people they want to appoint as healthcare agents. However, people can attend even if they don’t have an agent in mind, because attendees can still specify their goals and wishes. Attendees are also encouraged to continue to think about their wishes over time, as goals change over time.

Wiensch says an advance directive can also prevent family conflict surrounding end-of-life decisions. While it can be hard to have the conversation, she says there is some comfort in knowing your family knows what you want and can support you in those decisions.

Those attending should be open to conversation, but will not be required to share anything if they don’t want to.

“It’ll be a very safe, open environment,” said Wiensch.

Registration for the class is not required.