The Five Wishes is a document which was created to serve as a living will and provides questions to prompt you to think about how you would like your medical treatments and care to be provided if you were unable to speak or communicate these desires for yourself. This living will document accounts for your medical, personal, emotional and physical needs. It has been called a "living will with a heart".
When I owned a Senior Home Care Agency, I placed a bulk order for the Five Wishes and gave many copies to client's family members. The Five Wishes makes sure all the specific questions about care are answered. For instance, laws can vary slightly in each state regarding to what is life support (is it both a feeding tube and a breathing apparatus)? The Five Wishes is honored in 40 states and provides a starting point for you if you don't live in one of the 40 states.
People of all ages, not just seniors, should take the time to create a living will so that family caregivers will know your desires. The Five Wishes makes this an educational and easy task. Definitely if you are a senior or if you do not know what your senior parent's wishes are, the Five Wishes can be a nice starting place for a discussion.
I really like The Five Wishes because it breaks it all down into specifics: do you want life-support if you are sure to die in a short time or if you are in a coma and not expected to wake up or if you have permanent and severe brain damage and are not expected to recover?
The Five Wishes
Wish 1: The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I can't make them for myself
Wish 2: My wish for the kind of medical treatment I want or don't want
Wish 3: My wish for how comfortable I want to be
Wish 4: My wish for how I want people to treat me
Wish 5: My wish for what I want my loved ones to know
There is a page for witness signatures and wallet cards are provided.
Creating a living will in the form of the Five Wishes makes sure you will have your desires spelled out and will prevent added stress for family members who may all have their own beliefs and desires, which may differ from yours. You will be able to avoid a Terry Schiavo situation where the husband wanted life support removed after 15 years and her parents did not (the autopsy did confirm her brain was severly damaged, weighing half of a normal human brain, which meant she was unable to think, feel, see or interact in any way with her environment - for all that time).
The Five Wishes was introduced and originally distributed with support from a grant by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.
You may order a copy of The Five Wishes for $5.00 from www.agingwithdignity.com (just $1.00 per copy if you order 25 or more copies).