FIVE WISHES Resources

Browse our curated collection of podcasts, videos, blog articles, and book recommendations to find the right tool to help get the conversation started in a way that's right for you and those you love.

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Mother Teresa was one of the most admired women of the 20th century, and her memory continues to inspire charitable work around the world. Years after working side by side with Mother Teresa, Jim Towey founded Aging with Dignity (and later Five Wishes), inspired by his work with the sick and dying. To Love and Be Loved is an inspiring and moving account of how to find meaning in your life and to love others as you would yourself want to be loved.

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Tuesdays with Morrie chronicles the time student (and author) Mitch Albom spent with his dying college professor, Morrie Schwartz. Every Tuesday Mitch would visit Morrie who would share stories and his life perspective as a dying man. Through Mitch, Morrie teaches us how to live and shares his greatest life lesson (forgiveness).

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College professor Randy Pausch was facing a terminal diagnosis when he gave a lecture on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The Last Lecture expands on that classroom speech, which was not about dying at all, and about seizing every moment, because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”. Full of humor and inspiration, there is a life lesson in this book for everyone.

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Medicine has made many strides over the decades but as physician Atul Gawande explains, many doctors are still uncomfortable speaking to their patients about death. This often runs counter to what medicine should do. Atul follows other medical providers and shows us how to have hard conversations. Being Mortal is honest and humane and shows us that the ultimate goal is not a good death, but a good life.

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Through the stories of seven patients and their very different end-of-life experiences, physician Angelo Volandes shows how having honest conversations with patients can help them decide the best course of action in treatment. He poses the important question, “How do you want to live?” – which, when posed to the seriously ill could change the face of modern medicine.

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Dr. Ira Byock, one of the foremost palliative care physicians in the country, argues that how we die represents a national crisis today. To ensure the best care, he explains that we must not only revise our healthcare system but also move beyond our cultural aversion to talking about death. The Best Care Possible tells the story through medical drama and one physician’s quest to transform care through the end of life.

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Based on an acclaimed New York Times magazine piece, Knocking on Heaven’s Door is part memoir and part exposé of modern medicine. Author Katy Butler tells the story of her parents who she assumed would meet death on their own terms, but found something much different. It’s a story about how modern technology is keeping us alive but at the expense of the patient’s wellbeing.

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Driving Miss Norma is a delightful cross-country adventure narrated by Norma’s son and daughter-in-law. After ninety-year-old Norma is diagnosed with cancer and her doctors suggest treatment, she decides to “hit the road” instead. Norma’s family uses the Five Wishes advance directive to document Norma’s wishes to make this the trip if a lifetime. This story is uplifting, and you’ll find Norma’s good nature inspiring.

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During a twelve-hour shift, nurse Theresa Brown shows us the lives of four patients on a busy teaching hospital’s cancer ward. Unfolding in real time, The Shift gives an unprecedented view into the individual struggles as well as the larger truths about medicine in America. By shift’s end, we have witnessed something profound about hope and humanity.

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Author Joan Didion shares the account of her daughter’s illness and the year following the death of her husband. She attempts to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness ... about marriage and children and memory...about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.” It became a national bestseller and was immediately acclaimed as a classic novel about mourning.

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Fifty years after its original publication, a commemorative edition has updated resources of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s beloved, groundbreaking classic on the now famous five stages of grief (denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Through interviews and conversations, readers get a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patients, medical professionals, and families. Dr. Kübler-Ross’s famous interdisciplinary seminar on death, life, and transition became one of the most important psychological studies of the late twentieth century upon its initial publication.

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During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. They would read books and talk about the ones they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time and their book club of two was born. We’re reminded how books can be comforting in this moving memoir of caregiving, mourning and love.

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Following the death of her father, journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann sets out to examine what it means to die well in the United States. She struggled to put her life back in order after being a full-time caregiver and was haunted by the question, was her father’s death a good death? The way we talk about dying and the way we actually die are two very different things, she discovered, and many of us are shielded from what death actually looks like. To gain a better understanding, Neumann became a hospice volunteer and set out to discover what a good death is today.

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When Breathe Becomes Air is an inspiring and well told memoir about an idealistic young surgeon who was treating the dying and then became a patient struggling to live. He attempts to answer the question, what makes a life worth living? The surgeon and author died while writing this book, yet his words live on as a guide and gift to us all, “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything.”

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Dr. Ira Byock, an international leader in palliative care, shares how we can use four simple phrases (“Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”) in our everyday life to improve our emotional well-being. He explains that practicing these life-affirming words provides practical insights into the benefits of letting go of old grudges and toxic emotions.

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How do we learn to die? Psychologist and author for the terminally ill in Paris, Marie de Hannezel, spent seven years working with patients and families dealing with end-of-life concerns and shares their stories. de Hennezel teaches us how to turn death from something lonely and agonizing into a sacred passage. She discusses the importance of an honest reckoning, the value of ritual, the necessity of touch. In imparting these lessons, Intimate Death becomes a guide to living more fully, more intensely, than we had thought possible.

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Every day a boy would go to the tree and eat her apples and play on her trunk and branches. As he grew older, he began to want more and more from the tree and it gave and gave. This moving parable for all ages offers a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return. The Giving Tree is a tender story that is a meaningful gift for milestone events.

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Hospice nurse and author Kathy Kalina, describes the physical and spiritual signs of the dying process in Midwife for Souls. With years of qualified experience and spiritual wisdom, Kalina offer caregivers, friends and family members the right words to say to their terminally ill loved one.

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The Smooth River is the story of how a well-known public relations expert and her husband met her stage 4 pancreatic cancer head-on. This book is full of invaluable lessons on how to face the possibility of death and use it as an opportunity for personal growth, by finding inspiration in the experience.

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Because It Matters is a practical guide with checklists, questionnaires, and motivational advice that will help you organize your life should you not be able to care for yourself. Who will feed your dog? Who will make healthcare decisions for you if your health declines? This is an easy-to-read manual, readers will feel confident that they have taken care of their final piece of business…and can move on with living their lives to the fullest.

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Flying with Dad is a real-life story that shows you how to feel closer and more connected to someone. A story of a father and daughter, who found the relationship with him she’d always longed for. Written in vivid detail, you’ll enjoy the tales of this World War II veteran father.

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How do you talk about death with a dying loved one? Dr. Atul Gawande explores death, dying and why even doctors struggle to discuss being mortal with patients, in this Emmy-nominated documentary. The film examines the relationships between doctors and patients nearing end of life and how the medical professional can help them as they face death.

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This 2016 short documentary follows Dr. Jessica Zitter, an ICU and palliative care specialist that helps families make end-of-life decisions for their loved ones, who are often terminally ill. The film focuses on three of the five patients whose families are filled with wrenching emotions and harrowing choices.

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The Nurse with the Purple Hair is a warm and inspiring documentary about end-of-life care featuring hospice nurse Michelle Lasota.

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Death is as much a part of human existence as is life, yet it remains a mysterious, and often taboo, subject. Passing On explores death and dying through a series of compelling, personal, and thought-provoking stories that will engage viewers and provide valuable information about planning for end-of-life.

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The End of Life project is a result of four years spent with five individuals at various stages in the process of dying. In preparation for the project, the filmmakers trained to be end-of-life doulas and documented hundreds of hours with their patients. You’ll find the stories memorable and insightful.

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End Game weaves together three stories of visionary medical providers who practice on the cutting edge of life and death, helping to change the way we think about both. For many people, the words hospice and palliative care mean giving up but this group of caregivers see it differently and it will change the way you think.

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Defining Hope is a documentary about people weighing what matters most when you’re facing a life-threatening illness and the nurses who guide them. The story follows the patients who are having to make choices about how they want to live and what medical technology they want as treatment. It’s optimistic and will have you asking yourself important questions too.

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The End is a documentary that profiles five people living at home with terminal cancer, whose families recorded their journeys toward “the end”.

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In The Art of Racing in the Rain, Enzo the dog spends most of his days watching and learning from television, gleaning what he can about his owner’s race care driving – and relating it to life. The story follows Denny, a race car driver and customer service representative, through many years and struggles. Enzo is with him every step and viewers will enjoy this sweet dog’s thoughts and observations.

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Fast Forward follows four millennials and their parents as they travel through time wearing an MIT-produced “aging empathy suit” and working with professional make-up artists to navigate the realizations, conversations and mindset required to age successfully.

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Soon after learning his wife is pregnant with their first child, a man learns he has terminal cancer. He begins to make home movies as a gift to his unborn son, teaching him fatherly life lessons (how to shave, how to shoot a basketball, etc.). A moving drama about love, family, forgiveness, and what matters most in life.

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Newlyweds John and Jenny Grogan escape the brutal Michigan winters and relocate to South Florida, each landing reporter jobs at competing newspapers. They choose a puppy to test their readiness to raise a family and name him Marley. Their new puppy proves to be a handful and is full of daily antics. The story unfolds over the years with the addition of three children and a move to the Pennsylvania snow, with Marley in tow. As Marley ages, the family realizes how special he has been to them. This is a great family movie is based on a true story which can help open the door to talking about death.

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Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a “bucket list” of to-dos they want to do before they die.

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The parents in My Sister’s Keeper are living an idyllic life with their young son and daughter when they receive heartbreaking news that leads them to make an unorthodox choice in order to save their daughter’s life. Their decision raises both ethical and moral questions and ultimately leads to a riveting court case.

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My Girl is about love and loss and dealing with both at the same time. This tearjerker has served the test of time. It encourages kids to talk about their feelings regarding death -- as well as the romantic lives of their parents. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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“I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special,” is a quote from this comedy-drama and fan favorite. Steel Magnolias is a 1989 American film about the play of the same name and tells the story of a bond between a group of women in a small Southern town, and how they cope with the death of one of their own.

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Actor Warren Beaty plays a Los Angeles Rams quarterback that is accidentally taken away by an overanxious angel before he was meant to die. He returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire and the antics ensue.

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When iHeart Media host Kyle McMahon lost his mother to pancreatic cancer, he was heartbroken. He needed an outlet for his grief and created this podcast that is full of experts around the country to talk about grieving, loss, spiritualism, the afterlife, death rituals and advance care planning (featuring Five Wishes) to help anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one.

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The Art of Dying Well podcast aims to make death and dying an easy discussion that can be shared openly without discomfort or fear. Each month they interview at least one new guest on various topics related to dying well.

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When Sam’s biological father passed away, he took a lot of unanswered questions with him, including details about his native heritage. After college, Sam (an investigative reporter) went on a voyage to uncover her native heritage and other family history. It’s a deeply personal story that will resonate with anyone searching for answers after a loved one’s death.

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Dr. Karen Wyatt, a hospice physician and author of "7 Lessons for Living from the Dying," interviews experts on all aspects of end-of-life care. This includes topics of caregiving, funeral and burial practices, end-of-life planning, caregiver support and other community initiatives to support individuals and their families who are facing death.

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Talk Money is a financial podcast from certified financial advisor Jim Shoemaker. Jim often discusses the importance of advance care planning (ACP) for his clients and in this episode talks to Five Wishes about how to use ACP to create a complete finance and wellness package for you and your family.

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It’s not too early to begin advance care planning as discussed in this episode of Bridge the Gap. Joanne Eason, President of Five Wishes, discusses the important points to consider including the choice of comfort care, family relationships, and spiritual and emotional wishes.

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Sage Aging by Liz Craven is dedicated to helping caregivers of older adults connect to the information, resources, and inspiration they need to succeed. In this episode, advance care planning is at the heart of the discussion and the importance of planning ahead.

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This is a personal story about a daughter that uses Five Wishes with her elderly father before his death. She explains that she was grateful to have been made her father’s healthcare advocate and to have all of the documentation in place before it was needed.

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Death – along with taxes – is one of life’s few certainties. Despite this inevitability, most people dread thinking and talking about when, how or under what conditions they might die. Everyone should talk and prepare for death because you can never anticipate an accident or illness and having advance can planning documents in place will give everyone peace of mind.

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Writer and editor Melinda Mayo says she didn’t volunteer to become a caregiver to her elderly parents, but instead, was slowly initiated into the role. She lived in Virginia while her parents, in their mid-eighties, lived in Florida. She gives observations and tips about what she learned as a caregiver, including using advance care planning tool, Five Wishes.

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Sharon Emery and her friends decided to face death head on. She gathered her three besties for a day retreat to discuss their end-of-life plans using the Five Wishes booklet. She encourages others to do the same with their friends, keeping it fun and lively with snacks, wine and nerf guns, incase anyone gets “too sappy”.

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The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) shares a Duke University study that asserts that the U.S. ranks poorly in end-of-life care. But, they believe the ranking underscores the importance of examining planning as a key component of EOL care. They interviewed Five Wishes and our advocacy for widespread access to ACP options and our mission to empower individuals, families, and providers to make thoughtful EOL care decisions. C-TAC also encourages conversations about advance care planning, which is a key priority for their organization.

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Everyone has a stake in improving the care for people nearing the end of life. For patients and their families, that stake is immediate and personal. But, for the millions of Americans who work with or within the health care sector—clinicians, clergy, other direct care providers, and support staff—the stake is a matter of professional commitment and responsibility. As this report shows, the advances in medicine and health care that today help people survive advanced illnesses and serious injuries have also been accompanied by several collateral effects.

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Death Over Dinner was launched in a single night where over 500 dinners in 20 countries collaborated to discuss death and end-of-life wishes around the table. Since then, there have been over a hundred thousand death dinners around the globe. The idea began because the dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversations. We’re all better off when we communicate our wishes to our loved ones, allowing them to honor our end-of-life preferences.

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Modern Loss is a place to share your experience about loss and find out valuable resources to help with your grief. You’ll find essays and articles and creative ideas for working through your loss. You’ll also find book recommendations and ways to connect with others. Beginners welcome!

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The mission of the Hospice Foundation of America is to provide leadership in the development and application of hospice and its philosophy of care with the goal of enhancing the U.S. health care system and the role of hospice within it. You’ll find information, programs and resources for consumers who are coping with issues of caregiving, terminal illness and grief.

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Each experience is different at the end of life. Death can come suddenly, or a person may linger in a near-death state for days, weeks, or even months. For some older adults at the end of life, the body weakens while the mind stays clear. Others remain physically strong while cognitive function declines. The National Institute of Aging has tips and resources to help you in your journey.

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a wonderful resource for veterans and their Advance Care Planning page shows you how to clarify your values and health care choices. Setting up your final wishes is a gift to everyone when and if there comes a time that you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

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