FIVE WISHES | BRING IT UP
Diaconate will be holding a Five Wishes Forum after church on November 13th. In anticipation of the forum there
will be a series of articles in The Pilgrim discussing different aspects of advance healthcare directives and providing
online resources for congregants to check out before the forum takes place. The articles will go over the online
resources individually in a little more detail. But you can view the resources whenever you’d like at this website:
BY ADREANA LANGSTON, HEAD OF THE BOARD OF DIACONATE
My grandfather turned 93-years-old on September 23 , just three days before my own 42 birthday. I
called him on his birthday but I was a little nervous as I dialed his phone number. I was not just calling him to wish
him a happy birthday. I wanted to discuss with him a serious but delicate subject, his consumption of adult
material on the Internet. Five years ago I’d had to assist him in getting his computer totally wiped after it was
infected with viruses. I found out from the acquaintance that I’d enlisted to do the computer work that my
grandpa’s visit to xxx websites were most likely where his computer became infected. I returned the repaired
computer to my grandfather and never said one word about it. Even though I truly was concerned about identity
theft from malware I was just too embarrassed to bring up the subject with him. Earlier this month when my
grandpa reported to me the troubles he was having with his computer, I greatly suspected that the problem was
the same and from the same source. This time I did not avoid the conversation. I called him and we had a frank
discussion about his porn use and how he could consume it in a safer way.
So how did I have the guts to talk to my grandfather about porn this time around when I hadn’t had the
guts last time around? The difference was my grandfather. He’d set the example by talking frankly with me and
my siblings about his own death. During one week about three years ago he called me, my sister and my brother
and told each of us all the details about his will, his advanced health care directive, who his executor was and all of
that. We didn’t have to go to him, he came to us. After my grandfather showed such forthrightness in discussing
subjects like his own death and dying, any other supposedly taboo subject seemed like talking about the weather.
When I think about it, I’m not sure when or how my siblings and I would have decided to approach
Grandpa about these subjects had he not approached us first. It is easy to put off talking about death and dying to
someone like your spouse or partner when you are both relatively young, healthy and busy. It was hard enough
finding the time to have those meetings with the financial advisor to discuss retirement savings and planning for
the kids’ college. It is easy to put off talking about death and dying to someone like your parent when they are
relatively old. When mortality is closer for your parent it may frighten or depress you or them to the point where
neither one of you wants to bring it up or discuss it.
But discuss it you must. And there are some resources available that will assist you in bringing up the
subject with the people you love. One is the Advanced Care Planning Conversation Guide (which can be
downloaded as a PDF file from this website: http://bitly.com/pIsiuh) . This guide actually gives you scripted
suggestions on what to say to loved ones who are reluctant to engage with you in conversations about end-of-life
care. This is a good guide to use when you plan on having the conversation face to face.
If the loved one lives far away you could suggest that they watch the Loving Conversations videos on
YouTube. “Loving Conversations: One Family's Story About the Importance of Advance Healthcare Planning “
follows a fictional family through the difficult process of making healthcare decisions for a loved one who did not
make healthcare plans in advance. Each dramatization is followed by a didactic session where health lawyers
answer some common questions about advance directives. These videos were produced by the American Health
Lawyers Association, as part of its public education mission. There are seven videos but the last one is just the
credits. Each of the first six videos is between five and seven minutes long. I’ll tell you straight out that they are a
tiny bit dry. But if the person with whom you are trying to have the loving conversation is on the mature side, this
may be just the video set for them. There is no background music to obscure dialogue. The actors and actresses
speak clearly and slowly, and important questions are actually printed on the screen before they are answered.
You can access the videos from this website: http://bitly.com/qiyBt3 . One of the videos may approach a
topic that you think would be of particular interest to your loved one. If so you can send them a link directly to that
particular video by opening that video, hitting the “share” button underneath the video, copying the website link
that appears and e-mail that website link to your loved one.
C HAPTER 1 I NTRODUCTION
o What happens under the law when a person fails to provide guidance on what should happen if
he or she is incapacitated?
o What are the different ways under state law that a person can exercise some control over what
happens to him or her when he or she becomes incapacitated?
o What are the general rights and obligations of the family members when a loved one has not
provided guidance on what should happen if he or she is incapacitated?
C HAPTER 2 IS L IVING W ILL VS M EDICAL P OWER O F A TTORNEY
C HAPTER 3 IS S ELECTING Y OUR D ECISION M AKER
C HAPTER 4 IS T HE I MPORTANCE O F P UTTING I T I N W RITING
o What if a person has not made out a Living Will or designated a Medical Power of Attorney but
has told a friend that he or she does not want to be kept alive of on life support? Is that
admissible in court? Would it be controlling?
o Do people generally make out a Living Will or designate a Medical Power of Attorney when
crafting their wills? Are those documents normally kept together?
C HAPTER 5 IS W HAT I F Y OU D IDN ’ T P UT I T I N W RITING
o Would a healthcare provider honor the unanimous decisions of a family if there is not Advanced
o What ordinarily happens if the family cannot come to a consensus?
o What ordinarily happens if the spouse is gone and the children are split on what to do?
If you are willing to discuss your own death and dying but cannot get your spouse or partner to discuss it
with you, you can lead by example. The Consumer Toolkit For Health Care Advanced Planning is like a prep
workbook that prepares you for filling out your Five Wishes form. For that reason I would actually encourage all
congregants to review it so they can come to the Five Wishes forum prepared or at least prepared to ask educated
questions. The toolkit preps you by walking you through pretend scenarios in order to get you to contemplate
what is important to you regarding healthcare decisions. The scenario questions are ones you can answer out loud
in front of your spouse in order to spark a conversation. You can download the tool kit from this website:
If you are one of our responsible congregants who has already filled out the Five Wishes form, there’s still
some communicating you may need to do. It’s good that there is a copy of your Five Wishes form in the offices of
the church. But that is not enough. You must also make sure that you talk to your family in depth about your
healthcare wishes and distribute a copy of your Five Wishes form to your family members. Doing the responsible
thing begins with you filling out the Five Wishes form but that is not where it ends.