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Helping an Elderly Relative with the Funeral Process

written by:  Lucille Rosetti 💚 


     Coping with the loss of a loved one is emotionally devastating. After months of dealing with doctors, hospice care, and health insurance details, planning for a funeral can be too much for a bereaved and emotionally exhausted elderly individual to deal with alone. It's not uncommon for someone who's just lost a life partner to be in denial over what has happened. That can make it all but impossible to make well-informed decisions about funeral costs and planning out details for the day of the funeral. But it's important to approach the situation in an organized fashion with some idea of what needs to be done. A poorly-planned approach to a funeral can leave a significant amount of debt to the surviving partner. You can help your elderly relative get through this difficult time with vital information about planning and paying for a funeral by being their "go-to" person, someone who can run errands and make phone calls. 

Know your rights

     In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission enacted the Funeral Rule to protect bereaved people from being pressured by unscrupulous funeral home owners. The Funeral Rule stipulates that people need purchase only the goods and services they want and need. Your loved one also has the right to view an itemized statement outlining all goods and services, including casket prices, so that you know exactly what charges to expect. You also have the right to select a container of your own if your family has chosen cremation. And you can decline to have your departed relative embalmed prior to the funeral. The Funeral Rule gives you and your family an outline of information designed to make planning for a funeral as easy and clear as possible. It also makes it easier to deal knowledgeably with funeral homes and planners. 

     Be sure that your family is familiar with the costs involved, because funeral costs have been on the upswing for the past 40 years. Today, it's not at all unusual to face a bill of $9,000 or more for a funeral and casket. There are other costs that aren't included among the primary charges, which can drive the final bill through the roof, making paying for a funeral prohibitively high for anyone who doesn't have end-of-life insurance, sometimes called "funeral insurance." Funeral insurance takes the pressure out of decisions that need to be made as soon as possible in order to plan a funeral in time. Without it, making decisions on the spot and without forethought makes it very difficult to be methodical and well-prepared. 

Preparing for the day of the funeral

     Preparing for the funeral itself is largely a matter of detail, making sure that the funeral arrangements have been made according to the final dispositions of the departed. If plans are for a celebration of the departed’ s life, including a display of photos and videos, you can help your relative by pulling all the imagery together and helping to get it organized, coordinating with the individual (or individuals) who will prepare and deliver the eulogy. You can also help by letting family members know about the funeral arrangements, where to send flowers, when the memorial service will begin, what route the funeral procession will take, and more. This is a lot for a bereaved elderly person to handle alone. If family and friends are gathering after the ceremony for a meal and to spend some time together, you can help with those details as well, making sure that catering arrangements have been made. 

Long-term decisions

     An elderly relative left alone after the death of a spouse faces many long-term decisions about their long-term care and living circumstances. Consider hiring an elder mediator, which can be done for between $100 and $300, to help the family make decisions on a range of issues involving an elderly relative's finances, health care, daily care, and many logistical issues. People are often intimidated and fearful when faced with preparing for a funeral. It may seem like an admission of something they aren't willing to face, the inevitability of losing a loved one. Having the help of someone who can organize all the details is a godsend for a frightened and overwhelmed senior.