SUN CITY CENTER – Death is something people rarely want to talk about and many never do. But when it comes, families are often caught off guard at a time when they most need help and solace. That’s where Five Wishes comes in.
The document is a down-to-earth, advance directive on end-of-life issues that meets the legal requirements of Florida and 41 other states. And the United Methodist Church of Sun City Center is hosting a seminar at 10 a.m. tomorrowto give those who attend a free copy and explain how it works.
“How I wish I had had one of these when my mother became seriously ill in 2005,” said health ministry member Diane Hall, the seminar’s facilitator. “In the space of one week she went from chatting with me on her living room couch to being hospitalized and never speaking another word. I wish I could have known what would have made her more comfortable and what she wished for herself in her final hours.” What Five Wishes does is let your loved ones and doctor know the following: who you want to make your health care decisions in the event you can’t yourself; whether or not you want to be on life support; how comfortable you want to be; how you want people to treat you and what you want your loved ones to know should you die suddenly.
The first two “wishes” are actually legal documents – a durable power of attorney and living will – covered by Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes. The remaining three are nonbinding instructions that eliminate second-guessing for those you leave behind, making their decisions less difficult and helping prevent conflict or guilt. These can include whether you want to spend your last days at home, how much pain medication you want, if you’d like certain music played by your bedside and your burial instructions. There’s also a section for expressions of love and forgiveness.
“These are the things that people say matter the most to them,” said Paul Malley, president of Aging with Dignity, the Tallahassee-based nonprofit group that initially introduced Five Wishes in Florida in 1997 with the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Five Wishes is one of the only documents that addresses matters of the heart and soul, as well as medical issues. That’s why so many churches and houses of worship help disseminate copies and provide instruction. At the end of the day, it’s about caring well for the people we love and providing them with dignity,” Malley said.
That’s not something most folks consider ahead of time.
“I think doing this is so important because once it’s done it’s a legal document you can share with your family and doctor now, when you’re able to fully express your feelings and wishes,” Hall said. “It’s written in plain English, easy to understand, and you don’t need a lawyer to do it.”
Five Wishes is available in 27 languages including Braille. It’s distributed by more than 35,000 partner organizations and more than 18 million copies are currently in circulation.
To sign up for tomorrow’s seminar in the Life Enrichment Center at United Methodist Church of Sun City Center, 1210 Del Webb Blvd. W., call (813) 634-2539.
Additional information and copies of Five Wishes are available for $5 each at www.agingwithdignity.org.