by Theanna Zika
End of life care is not an easy topic to discuss. However, there are not many topics that are more important to talk about, especially for seniors. Think about it for a moment. What if you have no official documents that describe your wishes for end of life care (ie. a health care directive)? If that’s the case, all the decisions about what will or will not be done could be made by physicians, courts, attorneys or ethics committees.
There’s another important issue to consider if you don’t have a health care directive. And that is the final decision about when to “pull the plug” could be ultimately determined by a spouse or loved one. In situations like these when the deceased did not let their wishes be known, the loved one can end up feeling responsible for the death and have feelings of depression or guilt.
This doesn’t have to be the case. If you want to make sure your loved ones know what your wishes are in the unfortunate situation where you become terminally ill or incapacitated, there is a terrific options available. It’s an advance directive called “Five Wishes.”
It is the first living will that not only explains your medical wishes, but your personal, spiritual and emotional wishes as well. The American Bar Association’s Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly helped create this legal document which has been accepted as legally binding now by 35 states including Missouri and Illinois.
As the owner of a St. Louis senior home care company, I have a lot of experience with end of life care and medical directives. What really impresses me about the Five Wishes option is that it accounts for all the concerns that should be addresses in an end of life situation – not just the medical ones. Also, is is easy to fill out, however, it does require spending some time thinking about what you would or would not want. There are five parts to the Five Wishes document:
1. Who you want making health care decisions for you when you can’t.
2. What kinds of medical treatment do you want or don’t want.
3. How comfortable do you want to be.
4. How you want people to treat you.
5. What you want your loved ones to know.
It’s important that your doctors know about your wishes and they should have a copy of your signed Five Wishes. Quick piece of advice – you need to make copies of a signed, completed and witnesses Five Wishes. You can’t copy a blank one and then fill it out. Make sure you keep a copy around your home and that your loved ones know where to find it. A safety deposit box is not the place for it because it needs to be easy for family members to retrieve if needed.
If you change your mind about anything you have indicated, simply destroy that copy and complete a new one. Many people review their copy each year and make any necessary changes.
The response to this simple yet powerful tool has been overwhelming. It has been called the first “living will with a heart.” It has been featured in Time and Money magazines, on CNN, and on NBC’s Today Show.
For more information about Five Wishes, either Google “Five Wishes” or visit http://www.agingwithdignity.org/.
Theanna Zika founded St. Louis senior home care company, Heavenly Helpers, in 2004. The site also features a helpful list of St. Louis senior resources for seniors and their families in the St. Louis Metro area.
Heavenly Helpers Senior Home Care
23 North Gore Avenue, Suite 309
St. Louis, MO 63119
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