Efficacious individuals are accustomed to feeling in control, so it can be an uneasy, uncertain thing to grapple with the vulnerability of dying. But planning ahead ameliorates not only your own pain. It provides clarity and guidance at a difficult time to those closest to you.
In Pennsylvania, there are four types of advance health care directives. These are legal documents within which you instruct health care givers how to proceed in the event you are incapacitated and unable to instruct at that time. They are the:
- Living will declaration
- Durable power of attorney for health care
- Mental health care declaration
- Mental health power of attorney
The Five Wishes document
Created by the founder of the nonprofit advocacy organization, “Aging with Dignity,” the Five Wishes document is an amplified version of the living will. It’s a fuller set of advance instructions, more holistic in its shape and form, emphasizing emotions and values, focusing more on wishes for care and less on specific health care decisions.
These are the wishes the document conveys:
- Wish 1: Naming the person who will make medical decisions for you when you’re unable to do so
- Wish 2: Specifying what medical treatments you want or don’t want
- Wish 3: The sort of palliative care you’d like for relieving pain and easing other symptoms
- Wish 4: How you hope to be treated, if you’d like the company of family and friends and would like to be visited by clergy and whether you prefer to die at home or in a hospital
- Wish 5: What you want your loved ones to know, and how you would like to be memorialized
The Five Wishes document is legal in Pennsylvania and in most other states. It replaces the living will declaration and the durable power of attorney for health care. An attorney is not needed to execute this document.