Valuable Time: Helping a Bereaved Senior Plan a Funeral

Valuable Time: Helping a Bereaved Senior Plan a Funeral

Planning for a funeral can be a disorienting process for an elderly person, particularly for someone who’s always relied on a partner to take care of important arrangements. End-of-life planning is an especially daunting prospect if a partner’s estate hasn’t been settled. It can be easy to overlook some of the details of funeral preparation amid all the stress and confusion surrounding a funeral. Fortunately, there are many aspects of funeral planning that can be settled easily and in advance. If you know a senior who needs help with the funeral planning process, you can help them by dividing the process into two parts: advance arrangements and final planning.

Planning in advance

Much of what needs to be done involves organizing details that are well known but need to be ordered to fulfill various purposes. You can do a great deal to help an elderly loved one by collecting all the information that’ll be needed for an obituary, headstone inscription, wishes for a memorial service, and what kind of music should be played. An overwhelmed senior may forget much of this information, even basic details about their partner’s life. This is where you can be especially helpful.

Many funeral arrangements can be planned out in advance of a loved one’s death. If there will be a burial space, a headstone can be inscribed and made ready at any time. Same with the obituary, which will be sent to the local newspaper upon a loved one’s death. It can be easy to overlook details or get dates and names wrong for an obituary if you try to pull it all together at the last minute. The last thing you want is to publish something about a loved one that’s incorrect, so take care to write out what you’ll send to the newspaper well before a loved one passes.

It’s also important to arrange the details of a loved one’s memorial service, including location, time, music, guest speakers, floral arrangements, the funeral procession, selecting pallbearers and identifying who will read the eulogy. This is often done by a priest, minister, Rabbi, or some other religious leader, but if it’ll be read by a family member or friend, you’ll need to have this settled well in advance. If the deceased wasn’t affiliated with a formal religion, you or someone else can become ordained to perform a funeral through the Universal Life Church. It’s quick and free, which can come in handy when you need to make final dispensation quickly.

Final details

As beneficial as it is to pre-arrange funeral details, there are some things that cannot be done ahead of time. It’s at this time, after a loved one has passed, that your help will be needed. Your loved one will be emotionally distraught and will struggle to make any kind of decision. The best service you can provide is to gently advise your elderly relative in making the final difficult decisions. An ambulance will be needed to transfer the body of your lost loved one from the hospital or another place of death. And there’s official documentation to secure, including the death certificate and a permit if your loved one is going to be buried. 

Once the date, time and place of the memorial service has been set, you’ll need to let people know about it. This is often done through a newspaper notice. Today, social media, websites, and email make it much easier and more convenient to spread the word.

If your senior loved one has lost a partner, you can help them tremendously by settling as many details in advance as possible. A senior with dementia may feel isolated and frightened in the presence of such a devastating loss. In some cases, a bereaved individual with dementia may forget or deny that their loved one has died. They need time to express their feelings and to process what has occurred. You can give them this valuable time by helping arrange the funeral.

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