Aging with Dignity was founded in 1996 as a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to safeguard and affirm the human dignity of every person who faces the challenges and opportunities of aging or serious illness. Based on our founder’s experiences working in Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying, we wanted to ensure that every person facing the end of life is given the opportunity to talk about what matters most, and to ensure their wishes are known. With the help of the American Bar Association and end-of-life experts, and with support from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in 1998 we developed the Five Wishes advance directive document. The document was designed to be accessible, legal, and easy-to-understand with the goal of helping people discuss and document their wishes in a non-threatening, life-affirming way.
Written in user-friendly lay language, Five Wishes was the first advance directive to address personal, emotional, and spiritual issues in addition to meeting medical and legal criteria. Because the document is based on what is important to people, it has been widely embraced by families, community groups, faith communities, and medical and legal providers.
Today, Five Wishes is the most trusted resource for people who want to plan for care in advance of a health crisis. The Five Wishes advance directive document has been distributed by over 40,000 organizations throughout the country and has reached over 40 million individuals, and Five Wishes has grown into a comprehensive program with robust tools for healthcare providers, businesses, communities, as well as individuals and families.