Making Your Wishes Known

The first living will, Five Wishes, discusses a person’s personal, emotional and spiritual needs regarding medical wishes should anything ever happen to them and they cannot speak for themselves. Five Wishes helps you chose a designated person to facilitate these wishes on your behalf should you become seriously ill. More than 20 million people have already used or have in place this important document. Making our wishes known is so important, and the sooner the better.

This document opens up family dialogue as well as conversations with your doctor about the kind of treatment you would want if faced with a life-limiting illness. It also helps family and loved-ones know exactly what you would want or not want done if you become ill. It is important to choose the right person in this case, sometimes family members aren’t the best option-becoming too emotionally involved and going against your wishes. Choose someone who is able to stand up for what you want and can follow what you have set forth. Five Wishes addresses questions such as, how comfortable would you want to be if hospitalized, what you want your family or loved ones to know, and how you would want to be treated under certain circumstances regarding life support, coma, or severe brain damage.

The document must be signed and witnessed to become legal and valid. The original copy should be kept somewhere safe but visible, or somewhere someone can find it should you ever need it. Give copies to your physician and/or family members. The Five Wishes document is meant to help you plan for the future. Every person and every situation is different and advanced care planning isn’t just for those of old age. Even if you are not sick now, having set healthcare plans for the future is an important step in making sure you receive the medical care you truly want.

Many states have their own advance directive forms. Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you locate the right forms. You can find your area agency phone number by calling the Eldercare Locator toll-free at 1-800-677-1116 or going online at