A virus like COVID-19 can infect anyone at any time and as a result, health experts want you to be prepared as much as possible.
If you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, an advance directive can ensure what you want still happens.
One thing the document selects is an agent to act on your behalf, especially important in Wisconsin which is not a next of kin state.
When choosing an agent, Mayo Clinic Health System says there are many factors to consider and it doesn’t necessarily have to be family.
“You have to really understand the people you choose–what are their abilities? How much can they handle? We may have a child that doesn’t do so great in traumatic situations or won’t be able to honor your wishes because they’re too emotionally tied,” said Gina Zumach, a Mayo certified social worker. “So, you really want someone who you can have that advocates what your wishes are.”
The process of making the document is relatively quick and easy.
At Mayo the service is free of charge and available to anyone 18 and up. Social workers say many people are unaware that in Wisconsin close living relatives are not automatically given the power.
“Daily I find people who are surprised by that,” Zumach said. “They usually just say, ‘Well my husband knows what I want, my daughter knows what I want.’ That’s great, but if we don’t put their names on the line, we don’t include them as your agent–we’re not allowed to access it.”
In the event an advance directive is not present, a judge would appoint a guardian which result in court fees.
Once made the document never expires, but experts recommend reviewing and updating annually if needed.
“What we wanted when we were 20 is not what we’re going to want when we’re 60. We develop medical conditions,” Zumach explained.
While discussing death can be a hard conversation, social workers say the document can provide peace of mind.
“I see people who don’t want to talk about it because then they think something will happen,” Zumach said. “We just encourage people–you’d rather have the conversations, you’d rather have the document in place and hope you never need to use it.”
Those interested in creating an advance directive are encouraged to speak with a doctor.