Sharing your wishes is a wonderful start. In the late ’90s, a non-profit based in Florida, Aging with Dignity, developed a guide that is referred to as a “living will with a heart and soul.” It’s called Five Wishes. While Five Wishes is not without critics, it meets the legal requirements for an advance directive 42 states. If nothing else, it provides a good guide to decisions you want to legally document and/or discuss with your loved ones.
The 5 Wishes
Wish 1: The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t
Wish 2: The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want
Wish 3: How Comfortable I Want to Be
Wish 4: How I Want People to Treat Me
Wish 5: What I Want My Loved Ones to Know
How quickly could you get to your parents in the event of an emergency? The latest wave (2005) of “A National Survey of Families and Households” found that the average distance between adult children and their mothers is 355 miles. It also found that about 40% of adult children see their mothers several times a year or less. Advanced Planning is rarely a discussion topic during these infrequent visits.
Thus, it is understandable that one may not know what their mother’s desires and intents are in a time of health crisis. Would she prefer treatment option A or B? Would she want life sustaining treatment? Would she want to donate her organs? Does she have a living will or a health care proxy? Making decisions on behalf of your loved one is an emotional burden.
Learning that your mother’s outpatient surgery had complications is not the time when you want to raise these questions while you’re trying to close the distance between yourself and your ailing mom.
Below are links to each state’s government-provided guidance and forms for advance healthcare directives and related matters (e.g., healthcare proxies, treatment preferences, organ donation, etc.).