Preparing for the Death of a Loved One

til deathAfter my Dad was diagnosed with terminal acute leukemia, one of the first things he said to Mom was “You need to get a light-weight vacuum cleaner.” He’d helped Mom by vacuuming the house for years; he knew the machine was too heavy for her. He also had her bring the checkbook into the hospital, where they reviewed their finances together. Lovingly, Dad wanted to ease the transition of his passing for Mom where he could.

None of us wants to think about the death of someone we love, especially a spouse. Nevertheless, the time to prepare for it is while you are both living and healthy.

In the next several blogs I will discuss various aspects of preparation for the death of someone you love, including finances, care options, communication with family and friends, understanding your own limits, and saying goodbye. For purposes of communication I will speak about losing your spouse or partner; however, many of these ideas will also be helpful in the death of another loved one or family member.

hospital bedFollowing are some questions you may want to use to start the discussion with your spouse about about their wishes in the event of critical illness or death.

    • If either of us is unable to make crucial medical decisions due to incapacitation, or our heart or breathing stop, do we want medical personnel to perform life-saving procedures? If not, do we have a DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”) form signed and on file with our physician(s)? (See http://www.answers.com/topic/do-not-resuscitate-dnr-order)
    • Where are our legal documents i.e. wills, trust documents, deed of trust for our home, automobile pink slips, and stock certificates? List our banker(s), lawyer(s), financial consultant or CPA, insurance and stock brokers. (Will include a form for this in another post.)
    • List our bank accounts and locations. Where will we keep these confidential lists safe?  If we have a safe deposit box, where is the key? Is the other partner listed as a designated signer on the bank’s form? Does he/she have a key? Should we list a non-family member in the event we pass away at the same time?
    • If possible, teach each other how and when to pay bills, how to fill the gas tank, and how to complete other tasks that may have been his or her responsibility before illness set in. For example, my mother had never filled the gas tank before Dad died.
    • Have we each specified in writing who we want to receive special personal items such as wedding rings, jewelry, art, tools, or furniture?
    • Do we prefer burial or cremation? If burial, where? Can we pre-purchase the site? If cremation, where would we like our ashes spread?
    • Have we talked about or listed special wishes for music, pastor or priest we wish to perform our memorials, or other preferences for our services?
    • If we have pets, where would we like them to go after our death(s)? (My contract with the woman from whom I purchased my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels indicates that in the event of my husband’s and my deaths, “the girls” will return to her. This ensures our dogs will continue to be loved and well cared for, and that no family member or friend has to take in a pet they may not want.)

My prayer is that these tips will help you be better prepared at such time as you face the critical illness or death of one you love.

2 Responses

  1. Catharine Anderson says:

    Important topic to address.

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