"Five Wishes" to Make for End-of-Life Planning

December 31, 2013 Montana Cancer Center at Providence St Patrick Hospital

End-of-life care: It’s not an easy topic for anyone. Many times people wait – or only start thinking about such matters when they or a family member is seriously ill. By that time, dealing with diagnosis, treatment and care commands attention and end-of-life conversations can get brushed aside or avoided until the point of urgency.

Starting the Conversation

A helpful tool to get the conversation started is “Five Wishes.” This end-of-life document is the brainchild of the Commission on Aging with Dignity, a private non-profit founded in 1996. According to its creators, Five Wishes helps you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself.

Combining a living will and health agent forms, Five Wishes also addresses the medical, personal, spiritual and emotional needs of individuals. And, it’s a legal document honored in 42 states. It is the United States’ most popular living will. More than 15 million people have used this document to express their end-of-life wants and needs.

Five Wishes to Share with Loved Ones

Five Wishes uses easy-to-understand, everyday language. It’s simple to use and offers a checklist of subjects and “wishes” to include or exclude. Some may surprise you (e.g., having your favorite music played or asking people to hold your hand for comfort). As its title infers, the document is broken down into five subjects, and asks the following questions:

  • Who do you want making your health care decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself?
  • What kind of medical treatment do you want or not want?
  • How comfortable do you want to be?
  • How do you want people to treat you?
  • What do you want your loved ones to know?

Peace of Mind

None of us enjoys thinking about the when, what, where and how of our final days. But instead of feeling uncomfortable with the subject, we should feel empowered by end-of-life documents like Fish Wishes. The conversation and choices we make about our final days may be difficult and intimidating now, but they could provide invaluable peace of mind for you and your loved ones in the future.

To learn more about Five Wishes, talk to your care team or visit the Aging with Dignity website, where the document is available to purchase for $5.

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