As you get older, you start to face the fact that sooner or later, you will die. While you are still able-bodied and of sound mind, you should decide what life support measures you want in addition to creating a will and planning your funeral. Who will see to your wishes if you cannot communicate them? You may live to be 100 but it always pays to be prepared.
The organization Aging with Dignity is a nonprofit organization which helps people with practical and legal advice about ensuring your health issues. They have created a document called Five Wishes which is now legal in 40 states which allows people to express their wishes in terms of medical treatment, pain management and more. The bottom line is that critical care treatment and dying should be done with dignity and according to your wishes.
Five Wishes in Review
This document called Five Wishes allows you to put to paper how you wish to be treated should an accident or illness keeps you from being able to speak for yourself. While some legal documents like living wills and advance directives are in legal words that may be somewhat hard for loved ones to interpret, Five Wishes is in plain English. It also encompasses all of your needs such as spiritual and emotional needs to medical and personal needs.
The Five Wishes document allows your doctors and family to know these things:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Who will represent you in regards to your health care decisions when you cannot speak or communicate them yourself?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What medical measures do you or don’t you want?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What comfort level do you want in terms of pain management, personal hygiene and care?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What treatment do you want from others? This encompasses visitors from family, friends and clergy; humane acts like massages, hand holding and wishes about whether you want to die at home or not.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ What do you want your loved ones to know after you have passed on? Such things as personal messages, your funeral wishes, tokens of appreciation to special people and caregivers and more are covered.
Valid in 40 States Currently
As 40 states in the country and the District of Columbia recognize the Five Wishes document, here are the ten states that do not as of yet: Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Utah. Contacting the Aging for Dignity organization is the best way to obtain the Five Wishes document.
Once you have filled out the document, it must be witnessed and notarized for it to be valid. From there, do not store it in a safety deposit box but rather in a location that is easily accessible to loved ones. Anyone you designate to represent you on your behalf in the event of incapacitation, you should notify and explain your wishes in advance, directing them to where you store the document.
The Five Wishes document makes things so much simpler for loved ones as well as medical staff. Without any debate or moral dilemmas, your wishes can be acknowledged and carried out with dignity and compassion. This document should be presented to the primary doctor in charge of your treatment and placed in your medical file so it is always accessible. Anytime you make a change to the document, you will have to get new witnesses and a new notarization for it.
Image: Intensive Care Unit, credit: Wellcome Images, Creative Commons License