Getting affairs in order
With a palliative care order or Advanced Care Directive in place, you may wish to confront the reality of getting affairs in order as well. This life is a practical thing even to the very end.
Denial can prevent you getting affairs in order.
Denial can play a role in preventing practical issues being brought to the table. This means that often, getting affairs in order are left to the last minute, or are not addressed at all because it means accepting the final reality. This is completely understandable, but sadly can lead to regrets when there is no longer time to get important decisions made, signatures on vital paperwork and answers to family questions. Someone needs to bring up the difficult topic, create appointments and time to address matters of finality. It can mean that the heartfelt wishes of the one who is facing death will be carried out legally and appropriately.
A legal will
Many elderly people find it overwhelming to deal with legal matters and require support, otherwise the time after their passing can often be filled with prolonged and difficult paperwork, finding evidence and proof or dealing with conflicts of opinion within families. A legal will is your highest priority, bearing in mind that a home-made will using a will-kit may not always fulfill all legal requirements as completely as you might think.
Make an appointment with your family lawyer as early as possible to make wishes perfectly clear and signed before a witness. This is not a time for denial, someone needs to stand firmly on this. It can be stated that it should be attended to anyway, even if they have a wonderful turnaround in health and continue on unexpectedly. It still needs to be sorted out.
Often when a person is coming to the end of an illness, they are already detached from their material possessions and have little interest in getting affairs in order and discussing them. Come from a place of saying: ‘this will make it so much easier for us, please let us know what you want us to do with…’
If this is too much for them, have a family meeting to discuss special requests because there is usually something in particular that has long been admired and loved. Put special requests forward and together mark down a person’s name next to each item. Following death, the grief and chaos that surrounds this time means none of this practical planning occurs easily. There is also often one or two key individuals who get lumbered with the bulk of decision making and distribution. To avoid resentment and relieve their significant burden it is worthwhile attending to this while the person is still alive and able to put their wishes forward.
Writing an outline of the obituary before someone has passed on is much easier than doing it while shouldering the burden of grief and loss. Allow it to unfold over a period of time, asking family members for their memories and contributions until it has built into something everyone will feel happy with. We want to remember our loved one with dignity and respect; to pay homage to the contributions they have made to this world. The time of palliative care allows for this process to be completed, it is definitely another concern you don’t want to be worried about in a hurry before the funeral.
Ask your loved one what they would like said, what music they want played, special memories shared, favourite flowers, colours or themes. Some will not be interested, but if they are, you are providing an opportunity for them that they probably can’t organise anymore but will really appreciate.
Consider an event co-ordinator
If a large number of people are expected or organising a funeral is beyond you, consider employing an event co-ordinator to help with the logistics and practical issues. There can be just as much work goes into a funeral as there is for other significant life events. They can attend to flowers, organising music, a singer, violin quartet, catering, cars, photos, printing and other details. When the funeral home provides much of this service, an event co-ordinator can still let your wishes be known on your behalf, negotiate and engage services of professionals you particularly want, allowing you more time to attend to other more personal aspects.
Cost of a funeral
Shop around, talk to funeral businesses until you find the right fit. There can be a huge variation in what is provided and how much you pay. Talk about the coffin, do they want something simple and plain? Don’t assume and give them a choice. Check on whether they have already taken out funeral insurance, paid for a plot in a particular cemetery and whether they prefer a burial or cremation.
Ask if there is a special quote they would like on their gravestone, a prayer or a line from a favourite song. Ask what they do not want.
Time for choices
Palliative care offers a time for final choices which may not have been attended to yet. If they still have cognitive function, give time to these choices. Don’t avoid this discussion because you don’t want to talk about the fact that they are dying. If it really is unbearable and their input no longer possible, help each other out as a family to make decisions and share the load.
It means you can be free at the time of death to spend time together, to grieve and to feel glad that their wishes have been met. The funeral will be less stressful, and remembrance of the one you love is given priority over technicalities, as it should be.