Five Wishes is an advance directive that was originally introduced in 1996 for Florida only. Created by Jim Towey and the nonprofit he founded, Aging with Dignity, it combines a living will and health care power of attorney, while addressing matters of comfort care and spirituality.
In 1998, the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging and medical experts introduced a national version, and the Five Wishes document was originally distributed with support from a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Five Wishes document meets the requirements for an advance directive in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Eight states require a statutory form that must be attached to the Five Wishes document as a guide. Five Wishes is now the most widely used advance directive in America with over 18 million copies in circulation.
The Five Wishes document reflects the personal, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as medical issues, of the person completing it. The document gives the person a choice in health care decisions, including the opportunity to make personal choices about end-of-life care before Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
The document opens a dialogue between the person, family members, friends and physician, allowing important conversations to take place about end-of-life choices while also protecting that individual's wishes.
As in the document's name, there are "Five Wishes" to be completed: 1. Selecting a health care agent who is going to make the decisions; 2. The kind of medical treatment desired; 3. The person's desired comfort level; 4. How the person wants to be treated; and 5. Things the individual wants his or her loved ones to know.
Once the Five Wishes document is completed, the person signs it and procures two witness statements of that signature. The document should be kept in a safe place in the home that's easily accessible and not in a safety deposit box. Copies should be shared with family members and with the physician.
Should the person be admitted to a hospital or nursing home, a copy of the document needs to accompany him or her. There is also a Five Wishes wallet card included in the form that can be carried in a wallet so that others will know the person’s health care agent and where his or her Five Wishes document is located.
Preparing the document can help an person's decisions can be honored, and it will remove the burden from family members from having to make those choices.
Call (888) 594-7437 or visit agingwithdignity.org to order copies of the document.