As a loved one’s passing draws closer and closer, the last several months and weeks can be extremely nerve-wracking, taking an emotional toll on the relatives and caregivers who are powerless to stop it from happening. But despite this inability to help the passing, we still have to handle their affairs, and make all the difficult decisions that are associated with grief, pain, and loss. These feelings can be overwhelming, and increase in intensity as the loved one’s time draws near.
Planning ahead is one of the best ways to keep a clear head, and to maintain the sense that you’re at least doing something in this time of helplessness. By deciding how you’ll handle what’s to come, you can limit the panic and confusion that set in an as end of life draws near.
Use this planning guide to better understand how to cope with impending loss, and how to take the right steps to limit the effect that such a loss will have on your friends and family. Knowing what to do before you have to do it is the easiest way to mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Most people simply aren’t trained on how to offer support to someone facing death, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Providing emotional or practical support to someone in their last months can be difficult when you yourself need that kind of aid, and very few people are willing to seek out the help of a professional. Any professionals aim is to give you the tools and information necessary to help your loved ones.
Someone nearing the end of their life would likely benefit from what is called hospice care, which aids them with physical and practical concerns which they can no longer manage on their own. The benefit of hospice care is that can be delivered at your home or chosen setting, or in a hospital, and because of its diversity it encompasses many different aspects such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and so on. It can also entail spiritual and emotional counselling, which many terminal patients sorely need. Hospice Care also has a strong focus on minimizing pain, whether through medication, or through alternative methods. Finally, hospice care can help you deal with the coming loss of your loved one through grief counselling and bereavement support, preparing you for a life without them.
Traditionally, hospice care is a last resort solution for those who have only months left to live, as a means of spending these months at home in peace, rather than undergoing costly and painful medical treatment. It provides your loved one with dignity and comfort, and may be covered by OHIP or your insurance provider.
For those with more pressing medical concerns, palliative care may be a better option. While these two options are often confused, there are some striking differences, with palliative care being better suited for those with immediate need of a hospital setting. Both options effectively treat and manage your loved ones physical and emotional state, but palliative care embraces more therapeutic and rehabilitative techniques. The health care which it provides is steady and monitored, preparing the patient for the continuation of a monitored medical regime upon their hospital discharge. Unlike hospice care, however, palliative care gives the patient access to more enhanced pain management methods, with all aid being given by professionals, rather than volunteers.
Regardless of whether you choose hospice or palliative care for your loved one, you can rest assured that they will receive respectful and compassionate care, as the team on either end is trained to deal with situations exactly like this. Most importantly, your loved one will know that you’re working to find them the most comprehensive support program that you can.
Estate & Funeral Planning
Managing the finances of your loved one as they near their end of life may be the absolute last thing that you want to do, but it’s also perhaps one of the most pressing. It’s always better to settle any financial or legal problems while your loved one is still alive and can aid you through the process, rather than dealing with the confusion and anxiety of estates and finances after their death. Because they may have legal disputes, financial seizures, and tax burdens tied to their name, these issues can transfer over to you after their passing.
First and foremost, you should work with your loved one to establish how their money and property will be managed and distributed following their passing, with specific instructions as to the medical measures that they want to receive. A common problem that many families face is a loved one who is no longer able to communicate but remains on life support, with the family unable to decide how long said life support should continue. No matter how difficult it may be to discuss such matters, doing so while your loved one can still communicate is in both yours and their best interest.
You should work with them to establish who their financial trustees will be, and which (or any) final arrangements they would like to have done. If your loved one has any business dealings, partnerships, or ongoing legal matters, they should instruct you as to how to conclude them, or who can be entrusted to do so.
By establishing such matters before death, you give your loved one the opportunity to put their words into legal actions, giving them full control over what happens to their estate. Whatever property, money, belongings, or even pets that they have should be administered into your or someone else’s care, ensuring that neither surviving relatives nor provincial regulations can make these decisions for your loved one. This set of legal paperwork is commonly known as a will, and it is recommended that every individual create such a document. The best option when writing a will is to contact an experienced lawyer, who can guide you and your loved through this difficult process.
People rarely want to discuss end of life matters, and that’s why when the situation does arise, most families are wholly unprepared for any planning involved. The cost of burial and cremation services can be extremely high, and with the added grief that comes from such a recent loss, the entire ordeal can be confusing and frustrating. If the deceased has left instructions for final plans it can simplify the required planning, but it does not alleviate the stress of actually enacting them.
Conferring with other family members is one of the best way to destress the process of burial or cremation plans, as a consensus can be reached on how the ceremony will proceed, what type of casket or urn will be used, and who should be present for the ceremony. If your loved one is nearing end of life, don’t be scared to bring these matters up. Most people have a vague idea of what should happen to them after death, and discussing it can often help them come to terms with it.
If your loved one does stipulate a set of instructions, it can be helpful to begin making the arrangement while they are still alive. By contacting a burial or cremation service, you can easily create a legally binding contract, ensuring that no unwanted changes will be made, and that your loved one will receive the conditions that they asked for.
Funeral homes, and burial and cremation services are experienced in dealing with death and loss, and will be able to provide you with advice and support on how to acquire the necessary paperwork, how to care for and transfer the body, and how to proceed with burial or cremation. Feel free to ask these professionals any questions you may have, as they primary purpose is to help you get through this life changing event.
Overcoming the Shock of Losing a Loved One
Despite whatever planning you may have done, when your loved one does pass, it will still be extremely painful and shocking. Everyone deals with loss differently, but grief, numbness, anxiety, and anger are all common emotions that you may feel. The people around you can provide you help and support in getting past these feelings, as can the professionals. It’s important to focus on accommodating the last wishes of the deceased before dealing with the loss in your own way.
When a loved one passes, one of the first things you may want to do is to notify their friends and family, along with any health care team responsible for them. Many people choose to do this in person or over the phone, while others rely on tools such as obituaries or emails. Because your loved one had connections with a large variety of people, it’s important to give everyone chance to honor their loss.
You may have been in touch with a burial or cremation service prior to your loved ones passing, but if you weren’t, it’s best to do so as soon they pass. Dealing with the body of a deceased is something best left to the professionals, and requires immediate attention on their past.
These professional services can help you enact the written or legal instructions left by the deceased, and will do whatever they can to follow them to the letter. They can also assist you in requesting death certificates, as well as in dealing with banks, property managers, attorneys, and the government. This is also the point at which you would begin following the contents of the deceased’s will, so that any dependents, as well as estate property, is properly cared for. Any services or subscriptions registered to the deceased should be taken care of, as many businesses will not be notified of a death automatically.
Finally, you can begin to plan the memorial service for your loved one. This is one of the last opportunities that you may have to honor and remember them, and to hear the positive things that your friends and family have to say.
Absolutely nothing can lessen the impact of losing a loved one. But planning ahead can at least curtail the stress and despair that comes with it, and can be one of the healthiest ways of truly dealing with it.