ICEPlan > Blog page > living will

Share Your Intent in 5 Wishes

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

Establishing Your Medical Care Wishes

Laws that regulate fulfilling your medical care wishes when you are incapacitated differ state to state. The names of the documents vary. The types of documents vary. The titles of the person(s) to whom you assign decision making varies. If and with what agencies you need to file your documents vary. In absence of having legal documents that indicate what kind of care you want when you can’t communicate, who can make those decisions on your behalf also varies by state.

Here is an explanatory chart, courtesy of Nolo.com.

Term Also Called Meaning
Living Will
  • Health Care Declaration
  • Directive to Physicians
  • Health Care Directive
  • Medical Directive
A legal document in which you state your wishes about life support and other kinds of medical treatments. The document takes effect if you can’t communicate your own health care wishes.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Designation of Surrogate
  • Patient Advocate Designation
A legal document in which you give another person permission to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
Advanced Health Care Directive This term usually refers to a single legal document that includes both a health care declaration and a durable power of attorney for health care. It is currently used in more than one-third of the states.Technically, however, both living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care are types of advance health care directives.
Health Care Agent
  • Attorney-in-Fact for Health Care
  • Patient Advocate
  • Health Care Proxy
  • Surrogate
  • Health Care Representative
The person you name in your durable power of attorney for health care to make medical decisions you if you cannot make them yourself.

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.).


Decisions via Advance Healthcare Directives

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.).