By TEE ROGERS
As a medical professional, the families you work with are sometimes facing the imminent loss of a loved one and many are making end-of-life decisions. But they may not understand final arrangement details related to funerals and cemeteries. Pre-Planning Advisors are a resource you can offer to the families you serve to support them at a difficult time.
On a Sunday afternoon a call came in from someone whose loved one was placed in home hospice, expected to be with them for no more than a week. They’d called for help with final arrangements, so they’d have a plan when the time came. Headed in their direction, the phone rang again. The family member was screaming hysterically. Other family members were wailing in the background. Their loved one had passed and they didn’t know what to do. The grief is inevitable, but this high anxiety and stress is preventable.
Unfortunately, many families face end of life decisions without practical knowledge about of funeral and cemetery arrangements. The finality is something families don’t want to think about, and it can seem mysterious and daunting.
We think about how we are going to die, about comfort care and health care surrogates, wills, and organ donation. But we leave unanswered decisions like … what funeral home will I trust to pick up my body and serve my family? What is my preference for final disposition and final resting place? How should I be memorialized or honored at my service? What other details need to be considered?
When a loss occurs without a pre-plan, the family sits with a funeral director and answers many questions, from the information needed for the death certificate to the details of services, cremation/burial, and costs. They may not know their loved one’s wishes, or worse - different family member may have varying interpretations of their loved one’s wishes.
How can you help?
There are compassionate, solution-focused funeral professionals who work with families before their loss to ensure that there are no surprises when the time comes. They guide the family through difficult decisions and details, provide tools and support through the process, and make sure all of the family’s questions are answered so that they feel comforted and confident with the process.
Whether customizing services to reflect the personality and passions of their loved one, arranging a simple cremation, or planning to send their loved one to a funeral plot in another state, pre-planning advisors help the family prepare and be informed. The further in advance of the passing this consultation occurs, the more the emotional burden is eased.
Beyond the funeral planning, the advisor can often give cemetery tours and guidance, planning for remembrance such as headstones, or plans for alternate final resting place options (especially for cremation, such as cremation cemetery at sea or space flight options).
A couple scheduled a consultation because one spouse had been diagnosed with end-stage terminal cancer. We sat in their living room with their children and talked through the decisions, with family members able to weigh in and be heard. They learned of the strand of pearls from her first anniversary she wanted to wear, her wish to be scattered at sea, and her son’s wish to have a keepsake urn with some of her ashes. They pledged to write all of their wishes down in the planning guide provided to them, and they pre-paid for the necessary services of picking her up and taking her into care, the cremation, and other costs. We were even able to arrange the scattering with permanent memorial at sea. When the time comes, all the family will have to do is call one number, then focus on supporting one another.
At a time of grief and loss, when a loved one has just died, families often make quick, emotive-based decisions. Families describe the time after a loss as “a blur.” Advising your clients to seek pre-planning guidance can make a difference for their mental health before and after their loss.
How to engage a Pre-Planning Advisor
- If the family knows of a funeral home in their community or that has served their family or friends in the past, they can reach out and ask about pre-planning guidance. Many funeral homes offer this service.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s information on pre-planning: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0305-planning-your-own-funeral
- The family can do an online search for pre-planning funeral arrangements
Tee Rogers is a Pre-Planning Advisor with Dignity Memorial, representing 15 funeral home/cemetery locations in Central Florida plus Neptune Memorial Reef. She assists families with final arrangement decisions, counsels families who face an imminent loss on these planning issues, is a certified representative of Neptune Memorial Reef, and serves on the Aftercare Team providing resources and support for families who have recently lost a loved one. Her volunteer work in the community includes spearheading a blood drive program for Dignity Memorial and organizing a STEM Gift Drive for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org