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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

237: Joanne Eason

It’s not too early to begin advanced care planning. Joanne Eason, President of Five Wishes, discusses the importance for adults to consider the choice of comfort care, family relationships, and spiritual and emotional impact.

Download the Five Wishes program.



Welcome to the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We have a great program on today, a very important topic to talk about, and we have a good guest on today. Joanne Eason, she’s the President of Five Wishes. They provide solutions to enhance and advance care planning programs. Welcome to the show.

Joanne Eason 

Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here, Lucas and Josh. 

Lucas 01:08

Joanne, you know, the end of life is something that in the American culture is not often talked about until it actually is on the doorstep. And it’s something that the senior living and senior care industry faces all the time. And these are such important conversations and questions, which is the reason why we brought you on today because your organization really does approach this topic in a very meaningful way. Can you let our listeners know the background behind Five Wishes. 

Joanne Eason 01:43

Certainly. And thank you for all that you folks do in helping your constituents really serve the senior audience. It really is great work that you’re doing. Five wishes is an advanced care planning program like you had mentioned. The foundation of it is Five Wishes. Five Wishes is a 12 page legal document that helps individuals discuss what matters most to them. The five wishes really are in order, you know, who you want to be your healthcare agent. So who gets to make the decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. So this actually becomes a roadmap for your loved ones to know exactly what’s important to you. Wish two is your medical treatment. So what kind of medical treatment do you want if something, if you become seriously ill.  So do you want to be intubated? Do you want to be resuscitated?

Joane Eason 02:41

Those kinds of questions are asked within wish two. And it gives three different scenarios. So you can kind of go through and say, “well, if I’m approaching end of life, this is what I want.” If I’m in a coma, not expected to be revived, this is what I want. So really kind of walks you through each of three different scenarios and then leaves you room for a fourth scenario of your choosing. Wishes three through five, really are the special sauce for five wishes in that it gets to what becomes most important to individuals when they are nearing end of life, and wish three talks about your comfort care. So what kind of pain medication do you want? Do you want cool compresses on your head? And those kind of things that really go to the comfort aspect. Wish four is is how you want people to treat you. And that’s, do you want people to visit you in the hospital or at home when you’re close to dying? What kind of music do you want to be played?

Joanne Eason 03:42

Do you want music played? Do you want to be massaged by warm oils? All those things that you want people to know and how to care for you. And then wish five really becomes the legacy aspect of your plan, which talks about what you want your loved ones to know. So it talks about forgiveness, not only, want to forgive people, but you want them to forgive you for things that you might have done against them. And then it also goes into discussion of, you know, do you want to be cremated or buried? And what are the adjectives that you want your loved ones to remember you by? So it really becomes a full package. And, like I had mentioned a roadmap and a legacy workbook for individuals to do most people think that an advanced directive is something that only seniors should be doing. An advanced directive is actually very useful for everyone 18 and older. When you become 18, it’s not given that your family members are going to be your healthcare agent if something happens to you. So you know, what we’re trying to do is really spread the word that advanced care planning is something that should be normalized for every adult. And it’s something that we talk about and our wishes change as we age and as we progress through life.

Josh 05:48

Well, this is certainly a very, very important topic. I think every senior living professional that’s probably listening right now can think back to daily, weekly, monthly conversations they’re having. And I would say it’s very surprising. I can speak for myself over the last 17 years of caring for aging population, how many people when they come and you’re helping them through the transitioning to a community they’ve never even had these conversations. And I think as a non-medical professional, I know even for me having these conversations early on was very difficult because then questions come up about, well, what does this mean? And what does this look like? So to those maybe consumers, those that aren’t in senior living yet, those that haven’t even thought about senior living, or maybe those that are beginning their journey to navigate senior living, what would you say would be how you approach, let’s say you get this document that helps walk you through that, is there a certain people that you need to surround yourself with to kind of educate you on implications of these decisions that they’re going to be making?

Joanne Eason 06:16

That’s a great question, Josh. Advanced care planning shouldn’t be done in a vacuum when you’re completing your advanced directive, this is, and this is why we have it as a workbook. This is something that really should stimulate conversation between you and your loved ones, as well as you and your medical providers. Does no good to have, you know, your wishes stuck in your safety deposit box and they’re not available to anybody and no one knows what they are. So this whole aspect is really to have these conversations as early as possible. So before serious life limiting illness approaches, or before you go into senior living facilities this really is something that can be discussed at one time or during a series of different conversations. I know some people get a little concerned when they have to talk about, “well, I’m not quite sure what kind of medical treatment I want.”

Joanne Eason 07:11

So let’s not talk about wish two yet. Let’s talk and let’s start with maybe wish three. So if something happens, what kind of comfort care do you want? So the ability to go through the document at any point, or at any of the wishes that really helps individuals and families have better conversations, because it helps people come at the conversation where they’re at at that time. We have a lot of organizations and a lot of families that do this over Thanksgiving or the holiday time because families are together then. So that way you’ve got a multi-generational group of people that can have some great conversations and, you know, it’s, it doesn’t have to be morbid. And a lot of most of the time, it’s not. It really is talking about what matters most to you and what is your legacy. So it really is a document about, or a conversation about your life. And it’s not a really about your death.

Josh 08:11

So the aging with dignity organization, very large, I believe it’s national organization which is what Five Wishes was really born from. The background, it seems like there’s been so much thought research and time put into making this really an easy to walk through booklet, if you will, or workbook. It’s not easy conversations to have. Tell us and the audience a little bit more about the background of how you even arrived at a lot of the research that you’ve put into this workbook.

Joanne Eason 08:52

Great. Well I wish I could take some credit for the initial development of this, but I was not part of that. Our founder, Jim Towey was the legal counsel for mother Theresa for the 12 years prior to her death. And during his time with her, he worked as a volunteer in her homes for the dying, back in the eighties in Washington DC. That’s when aids epidemic was really large. And the individuals with aids really were kind of ostracized and left alone from their families. So that’s where a lot of the booklet came from, or the questions and the discussion aids came from because Jim actually sat and was with people as they were dying and realized that what really became most important were the comfort care, the family relationships, the spiritual, emotional impact and that dying isn’t really a medical moment.

Joanne Eason 09:48

It’s more of a spiritual, emotional relationship moment. And from that Five Wishes the whole idea was born. And then from like a technical standpoint we worked with the American Bar Association and making sure that it was meeting the legal guidelines across the majority of the states. So right now five wishes our standard national version is legally valid when it’s completed it meet the legal requirements of 46 states plus the District of Columbia there’s four states that need some special tweaks because their state statutes have additional language that must be incorporated. And we have documentation that meets those each individual states’ requirements. Probably your next questions is going be, what are those states? Those are Texas, Kansas, New Hampshire and Ohio.

Josh 10:43

What does it take to become a partner organization? I know you have a lot of those, but if our audience is out there thinking, “well, how do I become part of this?” How could I use this material to kind of educate, inform those within my community, those in the greater community that just are looking for resources, how would they tap into that?

Joanne Eason 11:09

It’s really easy. Go to our website. It’s That’s F I V E And there’s a lot of resources on the website that really talk about how to start your program from the ground up. Additionally, they can reach out to any of us here on our staff and we can help navigate through what, type of program or what aspects of the program would be best suited for their individual needs and their constituent needs. We work, yes, with a ton of senior living organizations, but also with churches because they provide programming to their members and their constituents as well. We work with financial advisors. We work with health systems and health plans. So advanced care planning runs the gamut throughout all the industries, it touches everybody and a lot of organizations are seeing the value. In fact, right now we’re seeing a huge uptake in how employers want to offer this as a benefit to their employees. It becomes very cost effective and it shows employees, whose employers have used advanced care planning, they strongly believe in their employees and want to build a sense of trust and want to provide them with a roadmap to help them gauge how they’re using or how they’re planning for their future.

Josh 12:40

Well, this is very, very useful information, and I know our audience will want to get connected Lucas I’m feeling like me and you should be having this conversation.

Lucas 12:50

You know, my wife and I have been having this conversation you know, being 42 years old, you don’t think about these things that often. The world has changed quite a bit. And this is a conversation that is being had a lot more given extended family situations. And so it’s important. And Joanne, we are so thankful for you to spend time to come onto our program, to educate and inform our audience about this Five Wishes, documentation that can be accessed and utilized for these very, very important in life decisions. Joanne, thank you for your time today.

Joanne Eason 12:29

Thank you so much for having me and best of luck.

Lucas 13:31

Thank you so much. And to all of our listeners, you can get this information by going to the show notes and hit the links. You can go to, access this episode, and many more hope to see you on social. Check us out on LinkedIn and Instagram, and we’ll see you on the next one. Thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.


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237: Joanne Eason