Cremation – Is It the Right End of Life Option for Your Senior Loved One?

We don’t really want to think about, much less discuss, death.

It is an inevitable fact of life that we will all be facing, for ourselves and loved ones, at some point in the future.

For our senior loved ones, they may be thinking about their end of life but may be reluctant to talk with the family about it.

Some may have made plans long ago, have their funeral arrangements settled, and their plot selected. Others may not wish to have a living memorial to them that might be viewed as obligatory for family to visit especially if they are not living near the cemetery.

Many families have a tradition of the family plot and visiting it at regular intervals is part of their lives.

With money tight, land less available and families spread across the country, many people are looking at alternatives to a large funeral and burial.

Still others are concerned about the environment and wish for their end to be green.

Prearranged Funeral or Cremation Benefits

There can be so many decisions and concerns that arise near the end of life for seniors and their family caregivers. What to do upon death, when this topic was not previously discussed, can be overwhelming for many families.

Often there will be time constraints at the time of death — not to mention emotions — that won’t allow caregivers to commit their attention fully to all the details.

The ideal situation would be one where seniors have given careful consideration to what option they would prefer when they die. Deciding how your senior wants his life to be remembered, either through a full funeral or cremation with a memorial service, should be a personal decision made by them.

Do they want a big funeral and a special casket? Do they have it all planned and have for many years including what clothes they wish to be buried in and what music will play? Many seniors do and their family members are fully aware of their wishes.

It would be a good idea to write these wishes down in a will or other document so that all family members understand and your senior’s wishes can be followed.

Advance Preparations a Gift to Family

Other families, whether due to their customs or faith, don’t wish to tempt fate by ever discussing death and dying. However, making these decisions will take the pressure off family caregivers later.

Seniors who face a long term illness may be more willing to discuss the possibilities and what they wish.

Knowing ahead of time and even making the arrangements themselves prior to their need is a great gift to family caregivers. Planning for the expense and paying for it in advance is one less burden when their grief is all consuming.

Handling the details, selecting the cemetery and plot, paying for the funeral and even selecting the headstone marker can help seniors feel that their death will be handled with dignity and according to their wishes.

Understanding that death benefits from the government, VA benefits and even life insurance may not cover the cost for a traditional funeral and top of the line casket may make prearrangement of a funeral or cremation a goal so that the cost will not fall to caregivers. Government benefits certainly will not cover the rising costs of funerals. Prearranging and paying for these costs before they are needed helps to avoid inflation and rising costs as your price is guaranteed.

When our senior loved ones have the presence of mind to explore their options before they need them, it takes the burden of doing so later off their families.

Cremation as an Option

More people are choosing cremation services in place of traditional funeral and burial for many factors.

For those who might be considering cremation, we talked with a representative from the Cremation Society to get answers about why one would choose this service and what we need to know about cremation.

Funeral homes can help you with a cremation and a memorial service but there are also Cremation Society organizations which are linked by a national network but organized on a state by state basis who specialize in cremation services. If you are interested in more information, contact your state’s Cremation Society for more specific state details.

Considerations for cremation:

  • The price doesn’t change, it is good at the price you paid now or for 30 years from now, the price does not rise over time if you have prearranged a cremation and/or memorial service
  • Affiliated from state to state so if your senior prearranges cremation in their state but dies elsewhere, other states will honor your senior’s agreement
  • Remains can be taken anywhere: different locations, multiple family member’s homes or spread in a location per your senior’s wishes
  • Make wishes known ahead of time, create the plan and specific ceremony when there is time to properly decide what is preferred; give everyone a chance to discuss and understand your wishes, since this is a personal decision and often based on faith and family customs
  • Remains can be interred in a cemetery plot or crypt with another person as a second right of internment; some people change their plans and will sell their prepaid cemetery plot to opt to join their deceased loved on in the same burial site
  • Much less costly than traditional funeral, since the death benefits from the government or VA are very limited, this option may make more sense for your senior loved one ($1,000 vs. up to $10,000 difference)
  • Remains can be placed in green cemetery as cremation is considered green
  • Can use any vessel that fits with the desires of your loved one or the person who will lovingly care for the remains
  • Form signed and witnessed and kept electronically on file so that the wishes will always be maintained and can’t be reverted at the time of death by family who don’t agree; after death the POA is invalid so the wishes of the senior can be easily followed when this paperwork is completed in advance
  • A full funeral service can be done using a temporary casket with the cremation completed following a full traditional funeral if the family so desires, yet fulfill the wishes of your senior; prearranged cremation paid and determined in advance relieves the burden on the survivors
  • In many states, prearranged end of life burial/cremation expenses are often exempt from assets when qualifying for Medicaid

Saying Goodbye As They Choose

Whether your senior loved one chooses a funeral or a cremation, their end of life memorial service is the way for the family members to say goodbye and celebrate their life.

It is a time of sorrow for their passing that requires healing for those left behind.

Having the arrangements made in advance and knowing that their dignity was maintained through their expressed wishes will make their passing easier for the family caregiver.

Encourage your senior and family to have this discussion, explore all the options and make arrangements accordingly.

It is not only a good idea for seniors to make their wishes known but for you as a family caregiver too!