The Five Wishes: An Easy Living Will

The Five Wishes is a document which was created to serve as a living will and provides questions to prompt you to think about how you would like your medical treatments and care to be provided if you were unable to speak or communicate these desires for yourself.  This living will document accounts for your medical, personal, emotional and physical needs.  It has been called a "living will with a heart". 

When I owned a Senior Home Care Agency, I placed a bulk order for the Five Wishes and gave many copies to client's family members.  The Five Wishes makes sure all the specific questions about care are answered.  For instance, laws can vary slightly in each state regarding to what is life support (is it both a feeding tube and a breathing apparatus)?  The Five Wishes is honored in 40 states and provides a starting point for you if you don't live in one of the 40 states.

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People of all ages, not just seniors, should take the time to create a living will so that family caregivers will know your desires.  The Five Wishes makes this an educational and easy task.  Definitely if you are a senior or if you do not know what your senior parent's wishes are, the Five Wishes can be a nice starting place for a discussion.

I really like The Five Wishes because it breaks it all down into specifics:  do you want life-support if you are sure to die in a short time or if you are in a coma and not expected to wake up or if you have permanent and severe brain damage and are not expected to recover?

The Five Wishes

Wish 1:  The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I can't make them for myself

Wish 2:  My wish for the kind of medical treatment I want or don't want

Wish 3:  My wish for how comfortable I want to be

Wish 4:  My wish for how I want people to treat me

Wish 5:  My wish for what I want my loved ones to know

There is a page for witness signatures and wallet cards are provided.

Creating a living will in the form of the Five Wishes makes sure you will have your desires spelled out and will prevent added stress for family members who may all have their own beliefs and desires, which may differ from yours.  You will be able to avoid a Terry Schiavo situation where the husband wanted life support removed after 15 years and her parents did not (the autopsy did confirm her brain was severly damaged, weighing half of a normal human brain, which meant she was unable to think, feel, see or interact in any way with her environment - for all that time).

The Five Wishes was introduced and originally distributed with support from a grant by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

You may order a copy of The Five Wishes for $5.00 from www.agingwithdignity.com (just $1.00 per copy if you order 25 or more copies).

 

 

 

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Ronald Reagan: We are All the Same When it Comes to Aging

About ten years ago, I was in Los Angeles attending a trade show for business.  At the end of the trip, I had made plans to meet a former intern for brunch before flying out of town.  We decided she would pick me up at my hotel, we would grab brunch and then she would drive me to the airport so we would have more time to catch-up (she was pursuing an acting career and had some good stories to share).

We decided to go to a hotel restaurant on the beach in Santa Monica since it was on the way to the airport.  We had not made reservations anywhere because we knew we would be so busy talking that any place would do.  The Concierge informed us that their restaurant was booked, but, if we didn't mind, they would seat us in their breezeway section, right off the hotel lobby as their outside patio was closed.  We said that would be fine.

We sat down and proceeded to start talking away.  A little later a few people sat down at the other table near us but we didn't really pay attention to them as we were deep in conversation.

The waitress brought our omelets and then she delivered a bowl of fruit to the table next to us and said, very loud and slowly, "Here you go, here is your fruit".  My friend turned to me and said, "She is talking to them like they are in an old folk's home".  I looked up and then I realized that the person sitting at the other table was former President Ronald Reagan and his nurse and 2 Secret Service officers. 

He had a baseball cap on and took it off and read the name of the team logo on it as if he were seeing it for the first time.  He then looked up at me and waved and then said something to his nurse and pointed at me.  I winked at her to let her know that I knew the situation and that everything was cool.  She then said to me, "he is flirting with you".  We then all laughed and so did he.  He seemed to think that I was someone he knew. 

We continued with our breakfast and they continued with theirs.  One of the Secret Service officers came over to our table to say hello and told us that they had just gone for a walk on the beach and sometimes stopped in for breakfast afterwards (I think he probably really was flirting with us).  President Reagan finished his breakfast at about the same time we finished ours.  We decided we would hit the bathroom and then leave.  The Secret Service officers and the nurse told President Reagan it was time to go but he did not want to get up.  After we finished in the bathroom, he was still sitting at the table, refusing to leave.  The Secret Service officer said goodbye to us and said that this happens sometimes with the President - I told him I understood because we experienced the same thing with my own grandfather when he had Alzheimer's Disease.

It was amazing to me that we were next to a man who had been president of the United States for two terms but no one in this busy restaurant and hotel even knew he was there - he was sitting in the "leftover" section with us.  For all his success, he was just another guy trying to get through another day while dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Meet them where they are" is the advice given to caregivers.  No matter who you are or what you've done in this lifetime, we are all equals when it comes to aging.

And that's my story about breakfast with the President.

 

 

 

 

 

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