Dr. Tim Melhorn, Medical Ambassador for Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, appeared on KIT 1280 on Jan. 28, 2014, to discuss end-of-life care and Five Wishes, a document that allows you to choose the person you want to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. It also lets you say exactly how you wish to be treated if you get seriously ill. It’s easy to use – all you have to do is check a box, circle a direction or write a few sentences. And it’s recognized in 42 states – including Washington – and the District of Columbia.
So what are the five wishes?
Wish No. 1: Who do you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself?
This allows you to designate a durable power of attorney, which is legal in Washington. Choose someone who knows you very well, cares about you and who can make difficult decisions. A spouse or family member may not be the best choice because they are too emotionally involved. Sometimes, they are the BEST choice. It depends on the situation. But choose someone who is able to stand up for you so that your wishes are followed.
Wish No. 2 is your wish for the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
Wish No. 2 is the living will that describes acceptable and unacceptable medical treatment. Life support treatment means any medical procedure, device or medication to keep you alive. It includes medical devices to help breathe, food and water supplied by tube, CPR, major surgery, blood transfusions, antibiotics and anything else meant to keep you alive. This wish allows you to choose if you want life-support treatment, if you don’t want it or want it stopped if it has been started, or if you want it only if your doctor believes it could help your condition.
Another two-page form allows you to summarize your wishes for end-of-life treatment, to be kept in your file for the future. The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment – or POLST form – lists a set of medical orders that are intended to guide emergency medical treatment for people with advanced illness.
Wish No. 3 is your wish for how comfortable you want to be.
Do you want your doctor to administer medicine to relieve your pain? Do you want your caregivers to do whatever they can to help you if you show signs of depressions, nausea, shortness of breath or hallucinations? Do you want your lips and mouth kept moist to stop dryness? Do you want religious readings and well-loved poems read aloud when you are near death?
This is about exactly what it says: making you as comfortable as you want to be when you are near the end of your life.
Wish No. 4 is your wish for how you want people to treat you.
Do you want people with you? Do you want to have your hand held, even if you don’t seem to respond to the voice or touch of others? Do you want people nearby praying for you? Do you want to die at home?
Wish No. 5 is to ensure your loved ones know what you want them to know when your time is near.
You wish for your family and friends to know that you love them, and for them to respect your wishes even if they don’t agree with them. You want them to respect your choice to be buried or cremated.
Frequently asked questions:
How do I get a living will?
Washington state recognizes Five Wishes, which allows you to choose a durable power of attorney – the person you want to make health care decision for you if you are not able to make them for yourself – and what treatment you want at the end of your life. Five Wishes is recognized in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Copies are available at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.
What qualifies as life support?
Life support treatment means any medical procedure, device or medication to keep you alive. It includes medical devices to help breathe, food and water supplied by tube, CPR, major surgery, blood transfusions, antibiotics and anything else meant to keep you alive.
What is a POLST form and how do I complete one?
This two-page form allows you to summarize your wishes for end-of-life treatment and can be kept in your medical file for the future. Called the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment – or POLST – form, it lists a set of medical orders that are intended to guide emergency medical treatment for people with advanced illness. They are available in your doctor’s office.