Recently I had a conversation with someone who was in the process of providing assistance with some end-of-life planning. In this case, help was being given in making funeral arrangements ahead of time, that is, before a loved one’s death. I have never been in that position, but I am sure that it is almost as difficult an issue to deal with before a death, as after someone’s death.
A primary take-away from the conversation was that a funeral home, and funeral planning, is a business. As with most businesses, the objective is to make money. Going into the funeral planning process unaware, or unassisted, can lead to a number of bad outcomes, including being taken advantage of (ripped off), overspending, being pressured into selecting options that are not really desired, or necessary, and entering into bad contracts. So it is prudent, if possible, to include someone who can be calmly objective, give wise advice and help make good decisions. Maybe you will be that person for someone else. Regardless of how quickly decisions have to be made, make every effort to give thought to the various decisions independently of the service provider then go back to them with answers or decisions. If they will not allow you time to consider your choices and decisions, they may not be the provider you want to work with, especially when plans are being made ahead of time.
Following that conversation, I read an article in the August 2012 issue of “Financial Planning” magazine dealing with the benefits of planning ahead of time for health care and end-of-life issues. Article author Deena Katz discussed how best to plan with, and for, someone who has a terminal illness and help them face the corresponding issues. The issues are not strictly about the person who is ill but also about those responsible for overseeing care and comfort.
One issue was the importance of having the necessary “advance directive” documents in place, knowing the purpose of the documents and being sure that the right people have the documents or know where to find them. You and your loved ones should have, or consider having, a living will, a medical or healthcare power of attorney, a financial power of attorney and “Do Not Resuscitate” instructions (DNR).
Another issue addressed was the fact that it is important, and helpful, to know how someone who is terminally, or gravely, ill wants to be treated or cared for as they go through their illness. This was discussed from the perspective of hospice care and AgingWithDignity.org’s “Five Wishes” document. The document covers five topics:
1. Who is to make health care decisions?
2. What kind of medical treatment is wanted or not wanted?
3. Directions regarding the desired comfort level during medical treatment or illness.
4. Directions regarding how other people are to treat the person being cared for.
5. What the loved ones of the person under care should know.
A web site that may be helpful in this regard is AgingWithDignity.org and its “Five Wishes” document.
Finally, life goes on after the loss of a loved one, though not easily. It may be necessary to get help dealing with the loss of a spouse, or to give help to someone who has lost a spouse. Getting past the emotional, mental and even physical toll takes varying amounts of time. In some cases the shock or toll of a loved one’s passing can even be incapacitating.
Those recently widowed may find this site helpful: TheWidowsJourney.org
Yes some of these needs are difficult and emotional to confront, but they will have to be dealt with at some point. Consider your situation and that of your loved ones, even that of people you know who may not have anyone nearby to help them. Preparation now can ease stress and emotional reactions later.