St. Clare Hospital exterior (copy) (copy)

Social workers will be at the SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday to help anyone fill out an advance directive, which is a legal document stating how an individual’s health care decisions should be made if the person is incapacitated.

Social workers will offer free assistance Tuesday to anyone interested in getting their health care decisions in order on National Healthcare Decisions Day at the Baraboo hospital.

The collaborative effort between Dean Health Plan, St. Clare and SSM Dean Medical Group will provide information and tools from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital to help people fill out advance medical directives and discuss these issues with their loved ones.

Everyone older than 18 should have an advance medical directive, said Amy Good, a social worker for Dean Medical Group. The legal documents tell medical professionals who they should contact to make health care decisions for an individual who is incapacitated or unable to communicate.

“The importance of this document is that it allows you to choose the people you trust to be your advocate for your health care when you’re not able to make your own health care decisions,” Good said.

She noted that preparing a directive is taking a “proactive approach to your health care.” It’s one of the elements of “advance care planning,” which also includes a living will that addresses what kinds of medical care a person does or doesn’t want.

In some cases when a person is incapacitated but hasn’t named a health care power of attorney, a court has to award someone guardianship to fill that role — but that person may or may not know or follow the patient’s preferences.

Good said those who drop in on Tuesday don’t need to bring anything — all of the forms will be provided for free — but they should prepare by talking with the person they want to name their power of attorney, discussing their wishes and making sure the person is able to follow them. Social workers will be there to offer assistance as well as act as witnesses, which are required to make the documents legal.

Even if you’re not ready to fill out the document, you can still go to ask questions, Good said.

“The most important thing is to really consider what’s meaningful and important to you in your health care,” she said. “What would you miss most if you couldn’t walk, talk, you know, eat, think, do things on your own.”

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