While a majority of Americans say they want to die at home surrounded by family and friends, most end up dying in the hospital or nursing home, cared for by strangers.
Half of Americans die in pain that could have been treated. Sick people have come to fear losing their dignity or burdening their families more than they fear death.
And this is all happening in a country that is meant to prize the rights of individuals and champion respect for personal wishes.
Members of the nonprofit group Aging With Dignity are committed to helping people and their loved ones work through these issues, by providing practical information, advice and legal tools needed to ensure individual wishes, and those of loved ones, will be respected, they said in a press release.
A living will is an excellent place to start, with a template, “Five Wishes,” creating with those at Aging With Dignity, available online at www.agingwithdignity.org.
They provide information and tools to draft health directives.
“Five Wishes” is a living will, a 12-page document that prompts individuals to consider five questions and issues: who your health-care agent should be (the person to make decisions if you’re unable to do so); what kind of medical treatment you want in various situations; how comfortable you wish to be (addressing issues like pain medication); how you want people to treat you (would you prefer to die at home?) and what you want your loved ones to know (where you wish to be buried, for example).
Since the document’s introduction nationwide in 1998, about four million copies have been distributed, says Paul Malley, president of Aging With Dignity.
Leaders of about 600 companies currently offer “Five Wishes” as a benefit to employees.
Perhaps most important, the document encourages users to discuss issues that go beyond medical care, Malley says, such as spiritual needs and family duties during a serious illness.
“So often, a living will just asks about life-support treatment,” he says. “An ‘X’ in a box is just not enough.”
Representatives for Aging with Dignity, and part-time Kaua’i resident Cindie K. Jones, of Waddell & Reed, are on Kaua’i for a seminar Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Regency at Puakea assisted-living facility in Puhi, at the intersection of Nuhou and Kaneke streets.
The cost is $5 for materials, and the session is open only to Hawai’i residents, Jones said.
She may be reached at 742-1510, and advises those who plan on attending to call her. Limited numbers of books are available, and will be given to those with reservations first.
Copies of the “Five Wishes” books will be available and directions on how to complete them will be covered.