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The Five Wishes Program: Empowering Individuals to Plan Their End-of-Life Care

In the face of aging populations and the increasing complexity of healthcare decisions, proactive end-of-life planning has gained significant importance. The Five Wishes program stands out as an innovative advance directive tool that allows individuals to express their personal preferences regarding medical, emotional, and spiritual care during their last stages of life. This article aims to shed light on the significance of the Five Wishes program in empowering individuals to make informed decisions, ensuring their dignity, and relieving the burden on loved ones.

1. Understanding the Five Wishes Program

The Five Wishes program is an advance directive that goes beyond traditional documentation merely addressing medical treatment decisions. It is a comprehensive living will, allowing individuals to express their desires for personal, emotional, and spiritual care while providing guidance to loved ones and medical professionals. The document comprises five areas of care that are crucial for individuals nearing the end of life.

2. Personal Wishes

The program provides individuals the opportunity to outline their personal wishes for healthcare preferences, including the kind of treatment they would prefer or decline. Detailing the level of medical intervention one desires empowers individuals to align their choices with personal values and beliefs. It ensures peace of mind by guaranteeing that their wishes are respected and protected in the event they can no longer advocate for themselves.

3. Family and Loved Ones

Besides medical considerations, the Five Wishes program emphasizes the emotional well-being of individuals nearing the end of life. This section enables them to express their wishes concerning family visits, communication, and the involvement of loved ones during their final days. By addressing these vital emotional aspects, the program fosters a supportive environment that strengthens relationships, ensuring that family members are involved in important decisions while minimizing potential conflicts.

4. Spirituality and Religion

Spiritual and religious beliefs are an integral part of many individuals' lives. The Five Wishes program acknowledges this by allowing individuals to specify their desires for religious rituals, spiritual support, and guidance during their final days. This facet of the program ensures that the holistic needs of the individual are met, reassuring them that their values and faith will be honored, providing solace and comfort during a challenging time.

5. Medical Wishes

The Five Wishes document provides individuals with an opportunity to articulate their desired level of medical treatment for specific circumstances. It goes beyond "do not resuscitate" orders and provides clarity regarding palliative care, pain management, and organ donation preferences. These specifics help healthcare professionals carry out treatments that align with the individual's desires, ensuring quality care and minimizing unnecessary suffering.

6. Comfort and Dignity

Ultimately, the Five Wishes program ensures an environment where individuals are treated with dignity and respect. By raising conversations about the end of life, the program alleviates the burdens faced by both individuals and their families. It empowers individuals to communicate their wishes clearly, leading to a more comfortable and dignified end-of-life experience.


The Five Wishes program fills a crucial gap in end-of-life planning by addressing medical, emotional, and spiritual care preferences. By empowering individuals to make informed decisions and express their desires, the program promotes autonomy and ensures dignity during their final stages of life. Additionally, it provides peace of mind to loved ones, relieving them of the burden of making difficult decisions on behalf of their loved ones. The Five Wishes program serves as a powerful tool, enhancing compassion and understanding in end-of-life care.

Written by Nola K. Plumb, ECBA, MBA, CP & Marley AI

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