Advance Directives help you take control of health decisions
April 16 is inaugural National Healthcare Decisions Day
04 / 04 / 2008
Maria Nelson, Media Relations
Affinity Health System
(920) 554-0686 (pager)
MENASHA, Wis. – It was about two years ago when Dr. Nancy Homburg, a family practice physician with Affinity Medical Group in Appleton, brought up the topic of an Advance Directive with Joan and Bob Waldusky.
Joan had recently been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a rare neurological disorder in which nerve cells in the brain waste away. There is no cure for the disease. Advance Directives are legally binding documents that state your health care choices, and how your decisions will be made if you are unable to express your wishes.
“We had the papers sitting on our desk for eight months,” Bob said of the Advance Directive paperwork. “I just couldn’t do it because it would finalize the end of our life together. I really had a hard time visualizing the end of our life.”
“Every time he would start to work on it, he would cry,” Joan said about her husband.
“Joan was real clear about what she wanted when it comes to the end of her life,” Bob says. “I wasn’t ready to commit.”
“He’s not alone,” says Carol Smith, a licensed practical nurse with Affinity Medical Group and a trained Respecting Choices® Advance Care Planning facilitator. “It’s very common for people to want to put off talking about these issues.”
The Walduskys turned to Smith to help them complete their Advance Directive. Since 2001, Affinity Health System uses the Respecting Choices® program with patients wishing to develop an Advance Directive.
“My role is to help patients work through issues that they have,” Smith says about her role as a facilitator. “I give them options, ideas, whatever they need to come up with a document that they are happy with. These documents can be as detailed as an individual wants.”
Once completed, a copy goes into the patients medical record at their physician’s office, one copy should go to the patient’s preferred hospital, one is shared with the patients power of attorney, and the final copy is for the patient. Additionally, Affinity now scans and stores all Advance Directives so they are electronically available anywhere in the system, and easily sent to other hospitals if requested.
After working with Smith, Bob Waldusky is at peace. “You have a huge sense of relief once you’re done,” he says.
April 16 is the inaugural National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day to raise awareness of the importance for Advance Directives. This date was chosen because of the famous Mark Twain quote, “There are two things in life that are certain; death and taxes.”
“April 15 is tax day, and National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16,” says Homburg, who also serves as medical director for Affinity’s Palliative Care program and the person who initiated the Respecting Choices® program.
Homburg says that every adult age 18 and over should have an Advance Directive. “Who will speak for you if you can’t? How do you want your physician to treat you? Do you have any religious wishes that you want respected? Do you want to be an organ donor?
“These are all questions that an Advance Directive answers,” Homburg says.
Affinity, working with the Fox Cities End-of-Life Coaltion, brought the Respecting Choices program to the Fox Valley in 2001. At that time, 4 percent of Affinity patients had Advance Directives. Today, that number is up to 20 percent. While Homburg is pleased with the progress that has been made to educate people about this, she would like even more people to have Advance Directives.
Affinity sponsors Advance Care planning workshops from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at
“Don’t wait,” Bob Waldusky says. “Get it done. It is a chance to detail your expectations and it provides an extra level of intimacy with your spouse.”
“Having our Advance Directives leaves me confident that we have good plans in place,” he says.
For the Editor:
Affinity Health System, a faith-based regional health care network, is the Fox Valley’s second-largest employer, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry. For the fourth consecutive year, Affinity has been named one of the nation’s top 64 health systems based on clinical performance according to Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care. For ten consecutive years, Affinity Health System has been named to the SDI (formerly Verispan) Integrated Health Network Top 100, an annual assessment of the 100 most highly integrated health care networks in the nation. Both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh rank among the top 1 percent of hospitals nationwide in terms of quality and efficiency, as determined by the 2007 Premier | CareScience Select practice National Quality Award. Members of Affinity include Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Health Foundation, Oshkosh; St. Elizabeth Hospital and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, Appleton; Affinity Medical Group, a regional network of 25 family practice and specialty clinics – 22 of which are recognized as NCQA Level III medical homes, the highest level of recognition – in 14 communities; Calumet Medical Center, Chilton; and Affinity Occupational Health.