Hospice introduces new program

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By Alice Du Pont

The "Five Wishes" has been introduced in Gadsden County by Big Bend Hospice in an attempt to help people make crucial decisions concerning their lives.

"It' s better that people make their own decisions about how they want their affairs to be carried out. If they haven't made a decision, the courts will make it for them. By writing down what you want you take the burden off family members and often relieve friction," said Diane Tomasi, community relations director for Big Bend Hospice.

Tomasi said there are many things that are out of the hands of individuals and that the program gives people control over how they are treated if they get seriously ill. It is the first living will that takes into consideration the individual's personal, emotional, spiritual and medical wishes.

Individuals are able to make choices about their medical health or services, like tests, medicine or surgery.

"There are so many situations that can become unpleasant. A husband and wife could have been separated for years but if something happens to either of them, who gets to make the final decisions? Or what parents, in some cases the eldest child, who may have been estranged from the family? Another example that is unfortunate is the guilt of a child may feel having to make the decision to stop life support," Tomasi told advisory board members. The program is for anyone 18 or older. It is for people who are married, single, parents, adult children or friends. To date, over 8 million people in 40 states participate in the program.

The program offers five wishes from which the individual must choose. The wishes and the will are legally binding, once the document has been signed an notarized.

The wishes are:

Wish 1: The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I can't make them for myself.

Wish 2: What kind of medical treatment I want or don't want.

Wish 3: How comfortable I want to be.

Wish 4: How I want people to treat me.

Wish 5: What I want my loved ones to know.

"The early cases involved people between the ages of 21 and 30. Automobile accidents, an illness that leaves them in a vegetative state all lead to young people needing a needing the examine the five wishes and make decisions," she said.

Tomasi said she or any members of the advisory council will be happy to meet with church groups and organizations to explain the program further.

Contact Tomasi at 850-701-1313 or 850-878-5310.