Preparing for the passing of a loved one is never easy. We know that it is an important step in ensuring that you are not caught off guard when the time comes, however we often avoid thinking about what happens during your grief and confusion. If you have time to prepare, perhaps one or two small items on this list can help to make the time easier for you. Often we know nothing about the processes and support available to us when a loved one passes, so if you have questions, please feel welcome to email us. email@example.com
Open and honest conversations:
You may need to take the lead to have open and honest conversations with the person who is in the twilight of their life, and with people close to them. This can be a difficult topic to broach, but it’s important to understand their wishes, whether it’s related to:
- medical treatment,
- hospice care, or
- funeral arrangements
- Legal needs
A question that needs to be asked when palliative care becomes necessary is what does a fulfilling and happy life look like? Their medical team may be able to help with some of the questions, but others are purely personal preference, such as choice of music or flowers at the funeral. Not every one wishes to think or make these decisions, so be open to these conversations going in directions you never expected. These conversations can help you avoid difficult decisions later on and ensure that your loved one’s wishes are respected.
Talking to close family is also a necessary conversation. Some relatives and friends may not want to admit that the person is in their final stages, or not realise how close to passing someone might be. Gently letting them know can allow space for last questions and goodbyes.
Understand their medical needs:
If your loved one has a serious illness, it’s important to understand their medical needs and to have a plan in place for their care. This may involve arranging for home health care or hospice care, as well as understanding what medications they are taking and what their medical preferences are.
Their healthcare team will assist you in this, and help you with any questions or training you might need. Some people may need palliative care at home, and regular nurses visits or administration of painkillers and other medications may be needed. Listen to the patient, as everything you are doing is to ensure their comfort in their final days. If something is making them uncomfortable, discuss with their healthcare team before taking further action.
Get their legal and financial affairs in order:
Ensure you know the location of the will, or have contact details for their lawyer if they have one, and that you understand any legal changes that will affect you. If your partner is the one reaching the end of their time, be aware of any legal ramifications, and prepare for accounts to be locked or shut down.
If there is no will, and they are of sound mind, get one created as soon as possible.
If you have any Power of Attorney over their affairs, this will cease the instant the person passes away, and the Will takes precedence over who has the right to act on behalf of the deceased person.
Make funeral arrangements:
Funeral arrangements can be explored before the person passes away. Many funeral directors will have catalogues available for online or offline consideration. This is also a way to open this discussion with the person preparing to leave us.
While it may be difficult to think about, it can be useful to make funeral arrangements in advance so you have a chance to meet and research funeral directors. They will help with selecting a funeral home, choosing a casket or urn, and making arrangements for a memorial service or burial. However none of this is urgent as in Australia there may be a week or two between the passing and a funeral.
Take care of yourself:
Preparing for a loved one’s passing is never easy, but it can be an important part of personal processing and respect for the ending of a life. To be a part of a loved one’s final days can be an honour and a burden, and we recognize the emotional needs with the ceremonies and structures that help us to say goodbye.
Reaching for your network during this time is important, and this is what makes us human. Grief is normal and a part of being connected to someone, whether it’s a love connection or other.
Taking care of yourself can look like seeking support from family and friends, speaking with a counsellor or therapist, or taking time for self-care activities. If you don’t have a support network and are struggling or just need someone to talk to, you can also use services such as Lifeline.
By having open and honest conversations, understanding medical needs, getting legal and financial affairs in order, making funeral arrangements, and taking care of yourself, you can help ensure that you are prepared and able to honour your loved one’s memory in a meaningful way.
If you’d like to hear more, check out our podcast, Death Defined (https://deathdefined.com.au/Video/) where we discuss the complicated emotional spectrum of death with real people, from their experiences. Hosted by funeral director Matt Kwoka, we delve into the complicated emotions, processes, and taboos surrounding one of the experiences that unites all humanity.