Sunday, March 01, 2009

Final Arrangements

I cover many topics when I first meet a patient and their family. A delicate but important matter to raise concerns funeral arrangements. Sometimes the patient themselves will bring it up. Other times I have to gently introduce the topic. The responses vary, from relief to fear. Some people feel that pre-planning their funeral arrangements is a way they can show love to their family so that they don't have to make those decisions themselves; other people feel that making arrangements ahead of time is disrespectful to the living and possibly will hasten things along. I never force families to make arrangements ahead of time. I do think it's helpful to make some of the decisions ahead of time because once your loved one has died, there's no way you want to answer all the funeral director's questions. There are so many details! It's harder to focus; it's a huge stress during an already stressful time. If families aren't comfortable making arrangements, I simply ask that they designate the funeral home or cremation society and most are able to comply with this.

I practice what I preach. When I started my fieldwork placement in hospice almost 6 years ago, I wrote down my funeral arrangements, just in case. I feel that I'm too young to plunk down money, plus what if I end up moving elsewhere someday? But I did write down the name of the funeral home I'd prefer, what church to use for the service, my favorite Bible passages and the music I'd like, as well as where donations could be made in my name. I have told families struggling with this decision that I wrote down my wishes and this has helped them know that it is OK to have these discussions and make decisions ahead of time.

I read the following articles about the funeral industry in today's Chicago Tribune with great interest:
It's distressing to realize that preplanned trusts may not be paying off the way we thought. No one wants to take responsibility for the current mess. Just another example of my lovely state's depth of corruption.
Other preplanning options.

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