What You Need to Know About Five Wishes


An advance directive is a written, legal document that details your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make the decisions yourself. An advance directive acts as a guide for your doctor, family members and caregivers so they know exactly what you want.

Liberty Hospice can help you with advance directive planning through the Five Wishes program. Fives Wishes is a living will that covers personal, spiritual, medical and legal wishes all in one document in clear, easy to understand terms. Five Wishes was created by Aging with Dignity, a non-profit organization that advocates for the needs of seniors and those who care for them.

In this blog, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about Five Wishes and advance directives.

Why should I fill out an advance directive?

If you become seriously ill, expressing your wishes in an advance directive like Five Wishes empowers your doctor, family members and caregivers to make the best decisions when the time comes and helps avoid disagreements about what to do. It can help everyone involved have peace of mind, knowing your wishes are being met. By planning ahead, you will receive the medical care you want and your caregivers will not have to make difficult decisions during moments of crisis or grief.

When should I fill out an advance directive?

The best time to fill out an advance directive like Five Wishes is now, before you face a health crisis. Life is unpredictable and it is always better to be prepared. If your desires change, you can always update your advance directive at any time. Five Wishes recommends reviewing your advance directive at least once a year or if you have any major changes in your health or your family support network.

Is Five Wishes a legal document?

Yes, Five Wishes is a legal document written with the help of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging. Five Wishes meets the legal requirements of 46 states, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Five Wishes is used widely in all 50 states and a federal law requires medical care providers honor patient wishes as expressed.

What is a health care agent and why do I need one?

The first wish you fill out in Five Wishes is designating a health care agent who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself. Anyone 18 or older can act as your health care agent in all states except Colorado, where the agent needs to be 21 or older. Five Wishes recommends you select someone who is trustworthy and reliable. This person does not have to be a family member. Five Wishes also recommends discussing your wishes with your health care agent so there are no misunderstandings later should they need to advocate on your behalf.

When does Five Wishes take effect?

Five Wishes only takes effect when you are no longer able to communicate. The person you have chosen to be your health care agent will use your Five Wishes document to help convey your specific wishes about your care. If you are still able to communicate, you can still make your own decisions about your care and will not need to use Five Wishes.

What should I do after completing Five Wishes?

After completing the Five Wishes printed booklet, Five Wishes suggests the following:

  • Review the document, possibly with your family.
  • Follow the directions for signing the document.
  • Discuss the document with your healthcare agent and doctor and give each a copy.
  • Make sure your doctor places your Five Wishes in your medical file.
  • Discuss your Five Wishes with your family and friends and give them a copy.

If you completed your Five Wishes online, print out the document and share copies with your family, doctor and health care agent.

After you have signed your Five Wishes and met all the requirements for your state, this important document should be stored somewhere easy to find. The wallet card attached to the Five Wishes document should be signed and placed in your wallet. As recommended above, it is a great idea to make several copies for your family, health care agent and doctor. This just makes it easier to access if you become seriously ill and the advance directive is needed.

Five Wishes is an excellent way to convey your specific wishes about your health care and Liberty Hospice can help facilitate the steps necessary to complete the document. Contact us today to learn more about Five Wishes and how our hospice services can help make each day matter with compassionate, expert care.