January 12, 2013

January 12, 2013
What to Do When a Loved One Dies

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you have had a beary safe and great week. It is another busy weekend for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

One of the downsides of life is losing someone you love. When you live in a world where your work includes working with people living with chronic (and sometimes deadly) illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer; it happens more often than to the general public. But sooner or later, we all lose someone close to us.

So what do you do when someone dies? Today I will blog about a checklist that could help you cope with practical tasks during an emotional time.

When a loved one dies, you might face the overwhelming responsibility of closing out the person's life. There are many things to attend to, from providing a proper tribute to closing bank accounts to canceling a gym membership. And many of the tasks require attention to detail adding stress to what is already a pretty emotional time.

To cope, cut yourself some slack: Don't try to handle everything yourself if you don't have to.

This burden shouldn't be placed on one individual. When people ask what they can do to help, take advantage of the offer. Delegate.

To do so, you need to have a full, clear picture of what needs to be done. Here's an ordered checklist to make your task easier. As you review what's in store, consider which undertakings you can hand off and who can best handle them.

To Do Immediately

Arrange for organ donation. It may be the last detail you want to think about, but arrangements need to be made almost immediately at death so the organs can be harvested as promptly as possible. Not certain about the person's wishes? Two sources to check: the driver's license and an advance health care directive, such as a living will or health care proxy. If the answer is "yes," the hospital where the person died will have a coordinator to guide you through the process. If your loved one died outside of a hospital that includes in hospice or a nursing home contact the nearest hospital. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about what's next. There is no cost.

Contact immediate family. Of course you want to update key family members. Bringing them together in person, by phone or electronically (via mass email, Skype or Facebook Family page), is an opportunity not only to comfort one another but also to share information about important decisions that must be made some of them immediately. Do any of you, for example, know of an arrangement for the funeral or other source for burial wishes?

Follow body bequeathal instructions. If the person made arrangements to donate his or her body to a medical school, the family must respect those wishes. An advance directive, living will or health proxy may guide you to a particular institution. If the person hasn't made arrangements, the next of kin can donate the body, but the decision needs to be made as early as possible.

Consider funeral preparations. If possible, bring together key family members for an early conversation. This is especially helpful if the deceased left no advance instructions or possibly made an unreasonable request. Factors to consider:

What did the deceased want?

What can you afford?

What's realistic?

What will help the family most?

Ultimately, people need to follow their heart, mind and gut about making these decisions. You have to know what will make your heart heal as best as it can.

Choose a funeral home. Most people want a funeral home to transport the body from the morgue to its facility. The deceased may have identified which home to use and even prepaid for funeral services. If there's been no conversation about arrangements, the choice will be up to the family. Do some research. Check with people who have had an experience with one.

Notify close friends and extended family. Make a list of as many people as you can. Find contacts through email accounts and personal telephone books. Contact an employer and organizations the deceased belonged to, if necessary.

Secure property. Lock up the person's home and vehicle. Is the car parked in a secure and legal area? Will the home be vacant? If so, you may want to notify the police (dial a non-emergency number), landlord or property manager. Have someone care for pets until a permanent arrangement is made.

Notify the post office. Use the forward mail option. This will prevent accumulating mail from attracting attention. It can also inform you about subscriptions, creditors and other accounts that need to be canceled. "That mail that comes in will be very valuable in tracking down what you may not have thought of. It can be a treasure trove of information.

Tomorrow I will finish blogging on this subject matter and I hope you have a beary safe and great Saturday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab