Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Making Final Arrangements in Advance

Funeral arrangements. These are two little words that can be so difficult for some people to say, let alone think about. 

As a social worker, I have the task of asking my hospice patients and their families if they know what their final arrangements will be.  I met with the family of a patient who was in his 90s and did not have any prepaid plans with a mortuary.  When asked about final arrangements, the family all looked at each other for a few moments and then replied, “We don’t know what dad would want; we’ve never discussed it with him.” 

Unfortunately this response is all too common. It was too late for that family to have the funeral arrangement discussion with dad.  They were faced with the task of making a quick on-the-spot decision, hoping it was the right one.   

I often find patients themselves are hesitant to bring up the subject of funeral arrangements.  Many times people think they are “jinxing” themselves to an early death if they discuss their last wishes. This is often the same reason many individuals choose to not complete a living will. On the other hand, most of us do not think twice about getting life insurance. We want to make sure our loved ones are financially cared for if something happened to us.  So wouldn’t it also make sense to alleviate some of the stressful final arrangement decisions as well? 

There are many ways to approach this. One way is to have a prepaid plan already in place. This would also alleviate any financial burden to your family. But even if you are not in a position to do this, you can at least begin the discussion with your family about what you would want after your death. Do you prefer burial over cremation? Do you want to donate your body to science? Is it important to you to be brought back to your home state? Are there certain songs you would want played at a memorial service? If your family does not want to discuss funeral arrangements with you, then you can put your wishes in your will.

Funeral homes today are adept at working with families to make sure their loved ones’ requests can be honored.  They are also aware of specific cultural considerations and will respect cultural traditions and practices. Their goal is to make this as easy as possible for the family. They understand your grief. Consider if there is a specific funeral home where you would want your service to be hosted. Hospice chaplains and social workers can also assist you with final arrangement planning and decision making. You don’t have to do this alone.

Losing a loved one regardless of when or how it happens is always an emotional time.  By removing some of the decision making responsibilities from our families, they are allowed to confront their grief sooner. When we focus on our heart and not our head, we can begin grieving sooner.   

By Sharon Sanchez, Social Worker

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