Disabilities present unique challenges to aging parents of a dependent adult, especially if they are primary caretakers.
Parents who have juggled the educational, emotional and physical needs of a child with special needs for 20 or 30 years must also make critical legal and financial decisions in anticipation of their own death and the future death of their child. Now is the time to make those final plans, and not leave the burden to surviving relatives.
Living arrangements is usually the first issue that comes to mind. Can the adult child remain at home and live independently with outside support? When a parent dies, will the event prompt a move to live with a sibling or other relative? Is that person willing and able to cope with an addition to his/her family?
The conversation should be held early and often, at a level that is understood by everyone involved.
The second issue is having an end of life plan for each of the parents and the dependent adult. Advance planning for the parents might include a cemetery plot for future burial of the son or daughter, or having cremated remains placed in the same plot with one parent. Once basic plans are in writing, costs can be covered with savings, or life insurance proceeds. After the parents are gone, who is left to pay? Siblings cannot be expected to pay for final arrangements. It needs to be taken care of in advance.
Generally, the individual with special needs has little to no income, and may be dependent upon public benefits or government assistance. This prevents them from accumulating assets or savings to cover the costs of burial or cremation. A special needs trust or prepaid funeral plan may avoid disrupting benefits eligibility. Once plans are on paper, a sibling or other designated person can complete the deathcare process without uncertainty or stress.
Advance planning makes perfect sense for any family, but especially for those with a dependent adult and aging parents.
Burial benefits for veterans – What you need to know
Speaking to Veterans about burial benefits is always rewarding. Some will say “oh, the government will take care of everything.”But that is not true. Eligible Veterans qualify for burial in a National Cemetery, such as Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, in Dixon CA.
But the VA does not make funeral arrangements or perform cremations.The family still must know the Veteran’s wishes and make plans with a mortuary and funeral director. There is an allowance for Veteran burials but not all costs are covered. Very important to know!
Most private cemeteries offer a section for Veteran burials, and certain discounts, but there still needs to be a budget and a plan.
Talk about your final plans.
Sacramento Veterans can obtain assistance and guidance for housing, education, employment and life issues from various agencies in the area, such as the Veterans Service Center through Volunteers of America, American River College, and the Veterans Family Advisory Council. There are professionals who specialize in working with Veterans, such as Landon Tymochko, a Vet himself who provides financial planning services; Venice Sullivan of Hope Institute, offering unique therapy; and agents serving Vets in real estate and mortgages like Michael D. Williams and Chuck Jones.
When it comes to a final resting place for Veterans and their family members, it is important to know all the details ahead of time.
“Don’t make a fuss when I’m gone.”
Have you already heard this from a parent or life partner? They say it because they don’t want you to spend a lot of money on a funeral or memorial service when they die. But there is more to it than money. What about the religious, cultural and practical aspects?
Do your family funeral traditions require an elaborate church service?
Is there always a viewing followed by a graveside service? Are survivors expected to provide a substantial meal for mourners afterwards?
Are there friends and family scattered all over the country – or all over the world? It will take time to make arrangements and travel plans to gather everyone in one place. Someone needs to tend to details like choosing music and passages to be read, and inviting people to speak. Funeral directors and clergy/celebrants can help with the planning, but family members still need to make most of the decisions. They need to know a person’s wishes in order to get it right.
Funeral industry expert, FUNERAL ONE, conducted a survey to discover how people felt about attending funerals. In their blog, Rochelle Rietow wrote about the surprising results: “People want a fresh, celebratory take on the dark and dreary funeral.” The survey asked about the last funeral they attended, “…18.4% of respondents said that it was a “typical funeral…sad, boring, creepy.”
Adding special elements to a traditional funeral can personalize it and make it less boring. Does Mom like certain hymns? Did your father volunteer as an athletic coach or Rotary member? Adding photos, program highlights, and unique music make a funeral memorable and not just something to sit through.
Money may not be the real the issue. A friend who prefers burgers instead of steak told her sons, “…just get together with some salami, cheese, and a good bottle of wine.” An overly fancy send-off would be out of character for this modest woman. Another family is holding a barbecue picnic, inviting friends to play guitar and sing. Their mother was cremated months ago, but the casual outdoor memorial service is what she wanted: a less somber, more joyful way to remember her life.
Do we know what our loved ones want? They might have memories of funerals that made them uncomfortable, or left a family in debt because of overspending ‘for appearance sake.’ (Sadly, it happens.) They may recall a wonderful service they attended and want to include the same features and details. Planning should take into consideration their personality, lifestyle, and financial means.
Families are increasingly asking for more party-like celebrations, with balloon or butterfly releases, yacht cruises, hikes, or tree-planting events. Have you discussed these ideas with your family? Once we talk openly about what we consider a good funeral, there is no guesswork when the time comes. Planning ahead eliminates family squabbles and saves time. It allows survivors to focus on their grief and not on event planning and managing expenses.
Share how YOU want to say goodbye at the end of your life.
Talk about your plans!
Cemeteries offer a special place to connect with our past.
We can feel a sense of belonging (especially if there is a family plot) and have a lasting way to honor those close to us with cultural, religious, and patriotic symbols.
Today’s expansive, formally designed and landscaped memorial parks offer visitors a rich experience with walkways and gardens to enjoy. Generally a quiet place, anyone can find peace and a moment to reflect during a cemetery visit.
People say they find comfort from their visits and are eased through the grieving process. Lucy Kalanithi wrote in an epilogue to her husband’s book, WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR, that she visits his grave often, bringing a small bottle of Madeira wine. “Each time I pour some out on the grass for Paul.” She describes how Paul’s grave “…looks west, over five miles of green hill crests, to the ocean.”
Full body, in-ground burial is not the only option. Caskets can be placed in mausoleums, or in crypts easily viewed from outdoors. Those who choose cremation can appreciate a scattering garden at a cemetery, or a niche in a columbarium.
Is it tradition in your family to have an in-ground burial? Is that what you desire most? Then it is important to have that discussion now, while you can express your wishes clearly. Does the idea of being below ground bother you?
Make your preference known to your family. Don’t leave it to them to guess.
If one spouse favors cremation, and the other prefers burial, arrangements can be made to have both interred in the same space, so that both wishes are met. And the family need only visit one place.
Talk about your plans now, and for couples, choose your final resting place while you are both living. Should it have a hilltop view? Or be a private garden with a bench? Will a quiet indoor setting be more comforting?
It is wise to make the purchase early to get exactly what you want.