How to Have an End-of-Life Talk with Your Parent

Elderly couple and their daughter discuss end of life decisionsThe death of a parent may be your worst nightmare and the very last thing on your mind as a family caregiver, but discussing preferences and writing down a detailed plan of action now will relieve a huge weight on your shoulders in the future while ensuring they have a say in your final act of caregiving.

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How to Initiate the Conversation

Starting a conversation about death with your parents can seem daunting, but you do not want to wait until the last minute. To kick off a discussion there are several approaches you can take. One of our favorite approaches is the broad approach: ask your loved one how they’d like to be buried, or how in general they see their future funeral. By keeping the question open-ended you can get an idea of what they’ve thought about without putting pressure on them to have everything figured out.

Another approach, which provokes more detail, involves preparation and a clear call to action. You can tell them, “Even though you’re healthy now, let’s make detailed funeral plans just in case.” Sit down together with a clear list of questions (or My Funeral Wishes), and use that to guide the discussion on what they want for their funeral. This would also be the optimal time to discuss what financial arrangements have already been made, like life insurance, final expense insurance, a trust, or savings accounts. If no financial arrangements have been made, you can come up with a plan for that as well.

The Benefits of Pre-Planning

There is no shame in pre-planning! When the time finally comes, making funeral arrangements will be far less stressful and frustrating for the whole family and you will avoid family disputes on what your mom or dad wanted. This will allow you to grieve and reflect on happy memories of your loved one without regretting the funeral you have chosen for them.

Having a plan in place will also prevent emotional overspending, giving you the time to compare prices and figure out how much your family can afford to pay. You can avoid going into debt and paying hidden fees, and will never be plagued with the dreaded “What If?” What if my father wanted to be cremated instead of buried? Did I give him the funeral he truly wanted? Pre-planning gives you the peace of mind that you have made the decisions your loved one would’ve made for themselves.

How to Create a Funeral Plan

Funerals may involve many costs and services you may not be aware of. When creating a funeral plan, you will want to find and consider these carefully and know your rights as a consumer. Funerals360, an end-to-end funeral planning website, offers a free online tool called My Funeral Wishes, which guides you and your loved ones through filling out final wishes in a format that is easy to print and share electronically.

Note: To ensure legal enforceability of a funeral plan, check with your state’s guidelines. Some states only require a notarized or witnessed document, while others require your preferences to be written into a will.

In general, you should ask your loved one to consider these questions:

  1. Do they want to be buried, cremated, or donate their body? Do they want a green burial?
  2. Do they want a religious or non-religious service?
  3. Do they have a particular funeral home or cemetery in mind?
  4. Do they know what kind of tombstone they want if they are being buried?
  5. What expectations do they have for their ashes if they are being cremated?
  6. Do they have any personal details of their funeral in mind, such as flowers, music, or pallbearers?

Though it can seem uncomfortable at first, you and your parent will feel relieved to have this conversation completed.

About the Author

About Funerals360

Funerals360 is the most trusted brand and market leader in online funeral planning. Through a nationwide website, you can access all the information you need to successfully plan a funeral including educational content, interactive planning resources, and localized search to discover funeral-related vendors alongside consumer reviews and funeral cost estimates.

Funerals360 helps with funeral pre-planning, at-need funeral planning, and memorialization of loved ones through the self-service website. It also offers a high-touch funeral concierge service through insurance partners, employee benefit plans, and membership organizations, providing a trusted and compassionate advisor to further reduce the stress and time required to plan a funeral, while looking out for a family’s best interest.

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