Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is a process of understanding, reflecting on and discussing future medical decisions. At any age, a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions. Advance care planning is one of the best gifts you can give to the people you love, and it starts with a conversation.

How do I begin Advance Care Planning?

  • Reflect on your values.
  • Choose a health care agent.
  • Explore your goals for treatment.
  • Complete a written advance directive.

What is an Advance Directive? 

An advance directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. No one can predict when unexpected medical situations will happen. An advance directive helps loved ones, and medical personnel make important decisions during a crisis. Having an advance directive in place ensures that your wishes regarding your health care are carried out, even when you're unable to make your wishes known.

Download Advance Care Planning PDF

Request that an “Advance Care Planning Kit” be sent to you by calling the Aspirus Customer Contact Center from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm at 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707.

Additional Resources

Learn more about Advance Care Planning


Need help filling out your Advance Directive?

Appointments are available through a FREE program called “Honoring Choices”. These appointments are offered at many locations and times. Volunteers will assist you to explore issues and help you create a plan to move forward. To find out more, visit Classes & Events and look for “Honoring Choices” events in your area.

Click below for information about FREE "Honoring Choices" appointments to receive help completing an Advance Directive:

Aspirus Locations

  • Aspirus Divine Savior Hospital: 608-742-4131
    2817 New Pinery Rd, Portage, WI 53901
  • Aspirus Riverview Hospital: 715-847-2000 ext.50098
    410 Dewey St, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
    (Wednesday's by appointment.)
  • Aspirus Ironwood Clinic: 906-932-7627
    N10561 Grandview Lane, Ironwood, MI
  • Aspirus Langlade Hospital: 715-623-9790
    112 E. 5th Ave., Antigo, WI
  • Aspirus Medford Hospital: 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707
    135 South Gibson Street, Medford, WI
  • Aspirus Doctors Clinic: 715-423-0122
    2031 Peach Street, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
    (Call for an appointment.)
  • Aspirus Stevens Point Clinic: 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707
    5409 Vern Holmes Drive, Stevens Point, WI
  • Aspirus Wausau Hospital: 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707
    333 Pine Ridge Blvd., Wausau, WI

Other Locations

  • Department on Aging – Oneida County: 715-369-6170 or 800-379-7499
    Rhinelander, WI
  • Mount View Nursing Home: 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707
    2400 Marshall Street, Wausau, WI
  • Rennes Health & Rehab: 715-847-2380 or 800-847-4707
    4605 Valders Springs, Weston, WI

Assistance is also available by phone by calling the Advance Care Planning Warm Line at 715-843-1340.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I have an advance directive?

  • Clarifies your wishes
  • Prevents future disagreements among family members.

What if I don't have an advance directive?

If you don't have an advance directive, and you are incapacitated, your decisions may be made by your physician and your surrogate decision-maker, according to Wisconsin law.

What is a “healthcare agent”?

A person you choose to make decisions in case you become incapacitated and cannot communicate for yourself.

What does it mean if I have been named as a “healthcare agent”?

  • You are considered trustworthy by the person who named you.
  • You have been asked to serve an important role.
  • You are expected to make decisions, based on what the person would do if he/she could tell you.

Are there questions to consider if I am asked to be a “healthcare agent”?


  • Are you willing to do this?
  • Do you know what the person would want?

What are examples of health decisions that might need to be made?

  • Tests to be done
  • Medications to be given
  • Whether or not your loved one can be moved to another facility for care.

What are some good questions to discuss with your agent and your family – before a health crisis?

  • What is important to you to “live well”?
  • When might life not be worth living for you?
  • When would you want physicians to stop treatments that keep you alive? How sick would that be?

Is it easy to talk about this?

  • Talking about end-of-life is like a “foreign language.” It's important to start the conversation now and Aspirus is here to help you with the process of Advance Care Planning and filling out an Advance Directive. 
  • Call the Aspirus Customer Contact Center at 715.847.2380 or 1.800.847.4707 and request a free Advance Care Planning appointment.

Are there some common phrases often used in these cases? Do they help?

Yes, some phrases are often used, but they only help if the healthcare agent understands what is meant by them. Examples:

  • I want to die with dignity.
  • I want to die a peaceful death.
  • Please do not let the doctor keep me alive “on a machine.”
  • I want/ do not want heroic measures.
  • Just let me die.


  • Find out what your loved ones mean by these statements
  • Write down their responses.

What if I don't know who to name as my agent?

You can still write down the treatments you want/ do not want. Consider a friend, someone from your church, a close neighbor.

Must I have an advance directive to receive care?

No.You can’t be refused medical care or health insurance because you don’t have an advance directive.

Will I be refused care if I have an advance directive?

No. Treatment will not be refused or stopped until your doctors are sure it wouldn’t provide the results you’d want.

Where should I keep my advance directive?

  • Keep your original with your important papers.
  • Make many photocopies and share copies with your agent, all children, your primary care provider, your health system (ask that it be scanned into your medical record).

Where is my advance directive valid?

Your advance directive is valid in Wisconsin. If you spend considerable time in another state, you should also have one prepared in that state.

What if I travel?

Take a copy of your advance directive with you when you travel. Tell someone with you where it is. Many states honor a directive from another state.

What if I move?

It's best to make a new advance directive if you move to a new state. If you live part of the year in another state, do a form for each state.

When should I review my advance directive for possible updates?

Situations change, and preferences might change. Review your advance directive any time of the “Five D’s” occur:

  • Decade
  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • New Diagnosis
  • Decline.

What if I update my advance directive?

If you change or update your advance directive, give a copy to all those who have the initial version and ask them to discard previous version(s). Aspirus is required by law to archive all versions, but your healthcare team will follow the most current one.

Intro to Advance Care Planning