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five wishes health care

Physicians, hospitals, hospices, and other facilities have encouraged advance care planning for decades, but with mixed results. Health care professionals don’t want to play referee when there is a family disagreement. Five Wishes helps bridge the medical and the legal worlds of advance care planning in a document that is easy for most people to use and understand. Health care professionals use Five Wishes as their preferred advance directive because it improves communication with patients and caregivers, saves time and increases advance directive completion. Many also use customized editions of Five Wishes to raise awareness in their community.

Doctors use Five Wishes in their offices, particularly with those patients who are uncomfortable thinking about a serious illness or death. Five Wishes is written in everyday language and speaks to the things that matter most to patients, so it’s completed by patients at a much higher rate than other advance directives.

Many patients give their doctors a copy of their completed Five Wishes to be placed in their medical file. Some choose only to copy Wishes 1 and 2, which designate the person who will make health care decisions when you can’t speak for yourself and the kind of treatment you want or don’t want should you become seriously ill or near death.

Hospitals use Five Wishes, often during the admissions process, as a means of complying with the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990. Little hospital staff time is required to answer follow-up questions because Five Wishes is easy to understand and complete. Hospitals also know that Five Wishes sends a positive message about dignity, comfort and personal relationships, which is why many distribute custom versions of Five Wishes at health fairs and community events.

Aging with Dignity has received many reports from hospitals – and many other types of health care providers too – that Five Wishes has helped them improve their clinical performance because of the emphasis Five Wishes places on patient comfort and dignity. State regulators and accrediting organizations like Five Wishes for the same reason. Five Wishes also takes steps toward meeting goals of pain relief promotion through its inclusion of comfort care questions in Wish 3. Five Wishes helps hospitals meet cultural diversity requirements because it is available in 26 languages.

Hospices use Five Wishes in their community education and outreach efforts and upon acceptance of the hospice patient. Five Wishes puts the advance care planning discussion in hospice terms. It allows those nearing the end of their lives to clearly state how they want to be treated, how their pain is to be managed and what their family members and others are to know.

Hospices do such a wonderful job of caring for people near the end of life with a focus on comfort, family relationships, spirituality and faith and care for the whole person. Shouldn’t a hospice’s advance directive include these issues as well?

Internally, hospices have found that Five Wishes helps the patient’s family better deal with the impending death of a loved one. Because the family takes comfort in knowing each member was doing what the seriously ill person wanted, the post-death grieving process for the family is made easier.

Many hospices also find great benefit in using Five Wishes to educate their community about good end of life care and the existence of hospice. They distribute Five Wishes to physician offices and conduct seminars for workplaces, civic groups and places of worship. This has the added benefit of encouraging health care decisions before a serious illness while also raising awareness and understanding of hospice care. In fact, Wish 3 offers an option for a person to request information about hospice care.

Custom Five Wishes

Ideal for your organizations’ community outreach and marketing goals

When you distribute Five Wishes, in addition to providing an important service and helpful information, you have the opportunity to promote your company or organization. Orders of a thousand or more Five Wishes may be customized at no cost using half or all of the back page.

Ideal for your organizations’ community outreach and marketing goals

When you distribute Five Wishes, in addition to providing an important service and helpful information, you have the opportunity to promote your company or organization. Orders of a thousand or more Five Wishes may be customized at no cost using half or all of the back page.

  • A Five Wishes tie-in helps organizations better communicate the “heart and soul” aspects of the product or service they offer.

  • Your organization’s message will be seen multiple times – when the user initially receives the document; when he’s discussing it with family members and health care providers; when it’s shared with others; when it’s updated; and when it’s being used during a time of serious illness.

  • Other promotional items you may be using have short life spans – they’re used and then soon discarded. When Five Wishes is completed, it’s kept for many years and copies are shared with others.

  • Because Five Wishes carries such a positive message about dignity, comfort and personal relationships, a positive association with your organization is formed in the mind of the user.


Contact in Aging with Dignity’s Outreach Department for more information on custom Five Wishes.


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