Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q:  What are Advance Directives?

A:   “Advance Directives” sounds like something you would find on a college syllabus, but they’re actually a set of instructions regarding your wishes as you near the end of life– should you be unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance Directives usually consist of a Living Will that names a healthcare surrogate. They can be individual documents or contained within a single document, like “The Five Wishes”.

The Five Wishes, sometimes referred to as “a living will with heart and soul”, was created in 1996. The attorney-founder of Aging with Dignity, Jim Towey, was inspired after witnessing Mother Teresa’s compassion for the dying. He assembled the document which, when completed, clearly conveys how you want to be treated at the end of your life. The Five Wishes is legally recognized in 46 U.S. states and available in 30 languages.

What are these “wishes?”

  • Wish 1 (the most important) is the naming of a health care surrogate. This can be any person aged 18 or older who will make medical decisions for you when you cannot make them yourself. This individual is entrusted to carry out your wishes, even if they do not agree with them.
  • Wish 2 determines the kind of medical treatment you do and don’t want. It covers topics like feeding tubes, pacemakers, blood transfusions and mechanical ventilation. This part of the document lets you provide clear direction to your health care surrogate about the medical treatments you deem appropriate.
  • Wishes 3-5 allow you to express your feelings about your comfort and dignity as you near the end of your life. Do you wish to die at home? Do you want visitors? Would you like favorite poems read aloud to you? These wishes also allow you to resolve past conflict and share your final plans request with your family. You can add how you want to be memorialized.

I’ve completed the document, now what?

In Florida, the signature on your Five Wishes document must have two witnesses. The witnesses cannot include your healthcare surrogate, physician or a blood relative. You then share copies of your Five Wishes with your family, healthcare surrogate and your physicians. That’s it. There is a wallet card included to let people know you have Advance Directives.

Whether you choose a do-it-yourself method, like The Five Wishes, or let an attorney draft similar documents as part of your estate planning, One Senior Place stands ready to guide you. Check the event calendar at for the next Five Wishes seminar or call 321-751-6771 in Viera.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.