Leaving at the end of life is not an easy topic of discussion. However, there are not many topics that are more important to talk about, especially for older people. Think about it for a moment. What if you don’t have formal documents that describe your wishes for end-of-life care (such as a health care directive)? In this case, all decisions about what will and will not be done can be made by doctors, courts, lawyers or ethics committees.
There is another important issue to consider if you do not have a health directive. And that final decision about when to “pull the plug” can ultimately be made by a spouse or loved one. In situations like this, where the deceased did not allow himself to know her wishes, the loved one may eventually feel responsible for the death and experience feelings of depression or guilt.
It does not have to be this way. If you want your loved ones to know what your wishes are in an unpleasant situation, when you are terminally ill or disabled, there are great options. This is an advance directive called the Five Wishes.
It is the first living will that explains not only your medical wishes, but also your personal, spiritual and emotional wishes. The American Bar Association’s Senior Legal Affairs Commission helped create this legal document, which is already legally binding in 35 states, including Missouri and Illinois.
As the owner of a senior home care business, I have extensive experience working with end-of-life patients and prescription drugs. What really impresses me about the Five Wishes option for senior resource is that it takes into account all the issues that need to be addressed in a life situation, not just the medical ones. It’s easy to complete too, but it takes time to think about what you might or might not like.
The Five Wishes document has five parts:
- Who do you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t?
- What type of treatment you do or do not want.
- How comfortable you want to be.
- How you want to be treated.
- What do you want your loved ones to know?
It is important that your doctors know your wishes and have a copy of your five signed wishes. Quick Tip: You need to make copies of the signed, completed and certified Five Wishes. You cannot copy a blank space and then fill it. Make sure you have a copy at home so your loved ones know where to find it. A safe is not the place for this because it should be easy for family members to reach out when they need it.
If you change your mind about anything you’ve listed, just destroy that copy and fill out a new one. Many people review their copies every year and make the necessary changes.
The response to this simple but powerful tool has been overwhelming. This was called the first “living will with a heart.” He has been featured in Time and Money magazines, on CNN, and on the NBC Today show.