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If you are working with your elderly parents, choose a quiet moment to introduce a conversation about their finances, advises Lise AndreanaSandra Gligorijevic/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Excerpted with permission from: Financial Care for Your Aging Parent by Lise Andreana, Published by Self-Counsel Press.

The Five Wishes
Five Wishes is a tool for developing an advance directive document, including the living will, and was developed in the United States. It talks about the person's emotional needs, medical wishes, and spiritual needs. Developed in part by the American Bar Association to help people deal with the legal problems in end-of-life care, this model can also be used informally in Canada as a starting point for discussion.

If you are working with your elderly parents, choose a quiet moment to introduce a conversation about the five wishes concept. You may be surprised by their answers. It is a good idea to document the answers. American readers can formalize the five wishes as part of their legal documents. Canadian readers may add a signed and dated letter outlining their five wishes to their Power of Attorney and will documents.

Five Wishes allows a person to spell out exactly how he or she wants to be treated should he or she become seriously ill. Note that specific funeral instructions, memorial services, and burial requests may be included in this document. Give your parent time to think about the following questions.

Wish 1: Who do you wish to make health-care decisions for you when you can't make them for yourself?
Choose someone who knows you very well, cares about you, and who is able to make difficult decisions. Family members or your spouse may not be the best choice as they are too emotionally involved. Choose someone who is able to stand up for your wishes and lives close enough to help whenever needed.

Be sure to discuss your wishes with this person; first ask if he or she is willing and able to take on this responsibility. You will need to fully discuss your wishes with this person. Ask if he or she is prepared to act on your wishes.

Wish 2: What is your wish for the type of medical treatment you want?
Traditionally this wish begins with the following statement:

I believe that my life is precious and I deserve to be treated with dignity. When the time comes that I am very sick and I am not able to speak for myself, I want the following wishes and any other directions I have given to my health-care agent, to be respected and followed.

Describe your wishes for pain management, comfort issues, life support or extraordinary measures and what to do in specific situations (e.g., close to death, in a coma, or having permanent and severe brain injury with no expectation of recovery).

Wish 3: How comfortable do you wish to be?
This wish may contain specific requests; for example, music to be played, poems or favourite passages read out loud, or photos to be kept nearby.

This may include information about your grooming needs and cleanliness of bed and towel linens.

Wish 4: How do you wish people will treat you?
This wish may include requests for who you want by your side in your dying days such as whom you would like to see (e.g., family, friends, clergy) and whether or not you want someone by your side to comfort you. You can also specify that you want to die in your own home (if possible) or to be in a facility with professional caregivers while family and friends visit as guests (as opposed to being caregivers).

Wish 5: What do you wish your loved ones to know?
This wish may contain statements that you want the family to know; for example, that you love them, or you may ask for forgiveness for times you have hurt family, friends, or others. It may also show forgiveness for hurts you have experienced from others. It is a wish that can evoke a need to make peace with yourself, your family, and your community; or to remind loved ones to celebrate your life with memories of joy, not sorrow.