More and more people are becoming aware of the need to prepare for the end of their lives through advance directives, and this is a positive development. Many of us are reluctant to talk about the subject of death, especially when we are having a conversation with family members who have reached their twilight years. Ironically, the fact is that this is exactly when frank and open discussions about the wishes of our elders is necessary and appropriate. If they don’t make their wishes known a lot of decisions are going to be made for them, and these decisions may not be consistent with that they really want.
A good way to approach end of life planning is with the advance directive known as Five Wishes. This concept was first used as a Florida-specific document back in 1996, but now it is recognized in 42 states and New Jersey is indeed one of them. This document involves stating your wishes concerning five different matters that are relevant to end of life planning. If you simply ask yourself these five questions, you are covering all of your bases and letting your wishes be known:
1.) Who do I want to empower to make medical decisions in my behalf?
2.) What types of medical treatment will I allow?
3.) What are my comfort care preferences?
4.) How would I like people to interact with me?
5.) What final messages do I have for my loved ones?
When you answer these questions in a thoughtful, thorough, and comprehensive manner you leave nothing to chance. You are essentially selecting a health care proxy, making out a living will, and addressing all of the other details that go along with intelligent and comprehensive end of life planning. Using Five Wishes is a good way to organize the myriad details of incapacity planning into a manageable form.
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