Local Community Member Journeys into Advance Health Care Planning

Lisa Becker, Case Manager at Eagle River Memorial Hospital, Ministry Health Care, and coordinator of the Respecting Choices Program, encourages all community members to act and complete their Advance Health Care Planning.

“One of the goals for our Advance Health Care Planning program is to get people talking about what their wishes are for end-of-life health care decisions. This is a true gift you can give your family,” said Becker. Nancy Schuller, a local community member, did exactly that. Along with her daughter Andrea they began discussing their wishes for end-of-life care, in the event that something unforeseen would happen.

Schuller advised that she learned about Advance Health Care Planning when Sandra Slagle, a trained Respecting Choices Program facilitator came to River Valley Bank in Eagle River to talk with employees and their spouses about the importance of having your future health care planning in place.

“To be honest with you, I put this planning on the back burner, but was prompted to find out more about the program last year when my daughter, who was 20 at the time, was going out of the county to study and travel. What if something happened to her or what if something happened to me?” said Schuller. Schuller decided to get serious and set up another meeting with Slagle and include her daughter.

At the following meeting, Schuller and her daughter began their conversations: who would make decisions, and what kinds of health care treatments they would want if they could not speak for themselves. Schuller said there were some surprises that arose out of this discussion. “Verbalizing your feelings brought the discussion to a whole different level,” said Schuller.

Both Schuller and her daughter are young and healthy. “It is easy to wait too long, to wait until there is a crisis when one is physically and emotionally unable to think rationally. I am so happy we did this and know that everything is in place. Now, if we want or need to make changes later we can, but it will be so much easier with the initial conversations and paperwork already complete and in place,” said Schuller.

Schuller related that she recently had a health care experience in her family where there had been no planning. “A close member of our family suddenly became seriously ill and none of us knew what to do. We did not know her wishes and we were facing some very difficult decisions,” said Schuller. Her mother-in-law, who became ill, was not able to give any clear direction for a period of time. “We were so concerned about making the right decision. It would have been a tremendous help if we had known and talked about her wishes beforehand,” said Schuller.

For now, Schuller and her daughter can enjoy the peace of mind they have knowing they have a trusted loved one to make decisions in the event they are unable to. “Young people today are so mobile. They travel more and are exposed to all kinds of situations. Someone has to know their health care wishes,” said Schuller.

Discussing your wishes about end of life care is NOT about rationing health care treatments; it is about honoring patient’s wishes for “care congruent with character” and aligned with a person’s life long pattern of faith and hope.

In Eagle River, workshops are held the first and third Fridays of each month at 10:30 a.m. in the lower level of the Medical Arts Building (Country Docs), 150 Hospital Road. Call 715-479-0375 for a reservation.

In Woodruff, workshops are held the second Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. at One Penny Place. Call 715-356-8877 for a reservation.

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