Thursday, December 7, 2006

What Do You Want?

Working in hospice and in bereavement, we are faced with the difficult challenges and decisions that people have to make in what is already a very difficult time.  Thinking about our death, or our loved ones' death is not what we want to think about, so we go in denial.  Let's only talk about pleasant things, let's not discuss uncomfortable, sad and depressing things.  What happens if you get diagnosed with a terminal illness?  What happens if a loved one dies unexpectedly?  Often we see families arguing with each other about what the loved one would want.  This is the time that the families should be coming together in support of each other - not fighting.  However, if wishes are not written down or stated, it's a guessing game as to what the loved one wanted.  Same holds true for people who have a terminal illness.  If their wishes are stated before they die, then the time they have left can be spent sharing meaningful moments and memories with family.  One client stated that it took the pressure off of her and the family knowing what their loved one wanted. 

It's human nature to put off what we know we should do, especially it it's something we're not all too jazzed up about doing anyway.  How many times have you thought, "I really need to make a will, or update my  health care proxy."?  How many times have you thought, "I have plenty of time, nothing is going to happen to me.  I'm young, I'm healthy.  I'll do it tomorrow, or next weekend."?  Well, there is an easy way to get this task done.  There is a simple form titled, "Five Wishes" provided by, or you can call 1-888-5-WISHES.

There are five parts to the form, or "five wishes", where you are guided to write down your wishes in the event of . . . .

Wish #1 refers to the Health Care Proxy.  This is where you determine who you wish to act on your behalf if you are not able to voice your wishes.  There is also a section where you can "customize" your living will.

Wish #2 pertains to what you want your caregiver to know about the kind of medical treatment you would like in certain situations, such as if you were on life support, close to death, had brain damage, were in a coma or wished to have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.

Wish #3 deals with the kind of comfort care you would wish from your caregiver, such as pain control, how to assess your symptoms, whether you wanted a cool cloth to be applied to your forehead, if you wanted to have your lips or mouth moisturized, if you wanted a massage, or music to be played or spiritual passages read while you were close to death.

Wish #4 is for the kind of treatment you want from others while you are near death, such as whether you wanted visitors, do you want to be touched, do you want people to talk to you or pray with/for you, do you want pictures of your loved ones placed around your bed and where you want to die.

Wish #5 tells your loved ones what you want them to know, such as you love them, you have forgiven them, you want them to forgive you, to respect your wishes, that you want them to seek counseling after your death, to make peace with each other, whether you are to be buried or cremated, where do you want your body or cremains to go, who is the designated person who knows your funereal wishes, what do you want said at your service, what kind of songs do you want played, what kind of flowers do you want or any other special requests.  There is an extra space for other wishes, such as whether you want to donate your organs or your body.

I often share my personal wishes with my husband.  I tell him that I don't want a viewing, I want to be cremated, I want a memorial service that plays certain songs and I want it to be like a huge party where people can share their memories and be a huge support to each other.  Since I've been doing this work, he gets used to my rantings and he simply replies, "Well, you better have it written down somewhere if you want me to remember all of that."  Hmmmmm, I better get the "Five Wishes."

Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.




P.S.  If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center.  We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and thecommunity.  As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.



drterman said...

"Five Wishes" has some nice qualities, but its choice of wording might leave some people in severe pain at the end of life. Further information is on a video at

cleomcveo said...

drterman - Thank you so much for adding such an important piece of information to this topic.  I encourage readers to offer comments because this is a great forum for education and support, and we all learn from each other.  

Have a great weekend!  Diana