What Is the Five Wishes Document?

How to Ensure Your Health Care Wishes Are Honored

Photo (c) agingwithdignity.org (used with permission)

Making your own personal wishes known regarding your health care is critical. We do not usually think twice about our ability to make our own health care decisions when we are perfectly healthy and able to speak for ourselves. Generally, we tell the doctors what treatments we want to receive and don’t want to receive and the doctors, at least mostly, honor our requests about treatment. 

The Role of Advance Directives 

The process of receiving health care is easy enough when we are healthy and able to speak for ourselves.

But what happens when you can’t speak for yourself regarding your wishes about the health care you receive? What if you’ve been injured or you’re suffering from a life-limiting illness and thus you can no longer make your own decisions regarding such matters?

This is where advanced directives and Five Wishes come into play. The Five Wishes document is an advanced directive. Advanced directives are a way to make your wishes about the end-of-life care that you will receive known. Advanced directives allow individuals to directly plan their own health care services before they become incapacitated, or otherwise not able to make sound and solid decisions for themselves regarding the care they receive. 

Living Will and Health Care Proxy

Advance directives consist of two separate documents. The first of the two separate documents is a living will. The will allows an individual to make their wishes about the care you would like to receive at the end of life known.

 The second of the two separate documents contained within an advance directive is a health care proxy, which is also commonly known as a durable power of attorney for health care (DPOA). In the DPOA, you appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you should be unable to do so.

What Is Five Wishes? 

Five Wishes is a document that, like other advanced directives, allows you to make your wishes known ahead of time.

It is unique among other advanced directives, however, because it addresses all of a person's needs: medical needs, personal needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs.

The Five Wishes 

According to Aging with Dignity, the organization that created Five Wishes, the document lets your family and health care providers know:

  1. Which friend or family member you would like to make your health care decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself.
  2. The kind of medical treatment you want to receive or don't want to receive.
  3. How comfortable you want to be.
  4. How you want people to treat you.
  5. What you want your loved ones to know.

Availability of Five Wishes 

Five Wishes is currently available in 40 states in the United States of America. It doesn’t meet the legal requirements in the remaining ten states. Many doctors, hospitals, health care agencies, churches, and even employers have the document available to distribute. You can also order it online from the Aging with Dignity website.