Entering the Daunting World of Funeral Planning

Happy first week of spring!  How strangely ironic that I’m ushering in the crocuses and robins with this intense topic.

It’s been a hard week with Mom, but in case this title left you wondering, she didn’t die.   The neurologist has been experimenting with her Parkinson’s drugs this week, trying to make them last longer in her system by playing a bit with the balance of slow-release and fast-acting Sinemet (the dopamine drug). 

It sounded like a good plan to me – anything seemed better than Mom’s frantic dopamine crashes multiple times per day.  But so far it seems to have actually made things worse, and Carol Jean’s feeling like an experimental guinea pig whose insides are being wrung out all day long. 


Times like these I feel like a completely incompetent daughter, support person, and health power of attorney.  I’m hoping she can return to her previous, albeit not so wonderful homeostasis ASAP, since it was at least predictably up and down, almost to the half hour.

Two of my older friends’ moms died this month, and hearing about their experience led me to re-approach the somewhat taboo and definitely uncomfortable subject of funeral planning.  My mother did a bit of that before the onset of her dementia.  I’m very clear that she wants to be cremated and buried in very rural Pennsylvania next to her father, where she already has a plot.  “But the man with the papers who runs the graveyard might be dead by now,” she said several years ago.


Last I knew, she also couldn’t exactly remember what small town the graveyard is near.  I suppose there might be somewhat to look up burial records from afar and find her dad.  To be honest, I’ve been avoiding all this.

I get consumed enough trying to keep up with Mom’s present needs, and have made a habit of avoiding dealing with the things that might really make things easier when she dies and I’m overwhelmed, emotional, and exhausted with too much to plan and think about.

So although this week obviously isn’t the right time to have this possibly awkward conversation with my mother, I want to do it before her dementia gets much worse.  Things might not all end up the way she envisions, but I at least want to have the conversation.

And now as I’m writing this, I’m asking myself, “Why?”

Why do I feel the need to include her in this process when she already has anxiety and depression issues, and fears death?  Does it make any sense?  Maybe not.

In any case, any of you who might be reading this are my witnesses that by the next time I post on this blog, I need to have taken at least one step to investigate this process, to ease a little stress in the future. 

For instance, I was told that I can legally put aside some of Mom’s money now to pay for funeral expenses, before it all runs out.  The lawyer who’s helping me now with the financial POA process advised that funeral insurance might be a better deal.  She ran off a bunch of facts and figures over the phone, and I was left confused and intimidated, vowing to do my own research, which has yet to happen.

If any of you have gone forward with funeral planning, whether the financial, organizational, social, or any other aspects, I’d love to hear about your process and what resources you used.  Since Mom isn’t religious and I don’t practice organized religion, I probably won’t have a minister or church community to guide me at the time of her death, like many people do. 

Other things I have no idea about are how to arrange a cremation in our current state for a burial way over on the east coast, and a funeral that would be in a third state, where Mom lived most of her adult life and where all her friends are.

I want to at least have a rough plan to deal with some of these complicated matters.

My goal for March is to get the ball rolling at least a little on that plan.  I hope to report back the next time I post with at least some progress on this, with the intention not only of helping myself with some procrastination and denial, but I’m also hoping that it helps educate others who might be avoiding this too, or who don’t know how any of this stuff works.

I have a list of resources to get me started in this area from a great book I read called “The Eldercare Planner, and once I investigate those, I’ll let you know what was helpful.

Until then, enjoy the flowers promising to poke up everywhere, any time now!

This entry was posted in caregiver stress, support, and respite, doctors and medical, family issues, legal issues and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Entering the Daunting World of Funeral Planning

  1. susan says:

    My family is in the Chicago area and I’m in NC. Mom is end stage PD/dementia and has been with hospice since November. I strongly suggest you connect with local hospices and find one that suits you. They seem to be a missing piece in the process of your end of life planning. Good hospice will engage and help per your direction, as much as you want/need them to. Check them out. Feel free to contact me. Your blog resonates with me deeply and I appreciate reading it very much.

  2. Laura says:

    You are both a wise & a brave soul to get started. Who knows, your intuition may guide you to bring it up in just the right way for her at that moment – or not – but at least you are trying.

    It is a little harder not having the organized religion to offer a template & support – we got creative with both parents – had a chocolate fountain with fresh strawberries at my Mom’s service in her retirement community 4 years ago – a big hit for the residents during an April blizzard & sentimental for us for several reasons. If you haven’t already – I would call the local place that handles cremations – they will have suggestions – it is tricky to take ashes on a plane with you but there are ways.

    Both my parents’ ashes are still in my brother’s attic (deaths were in 1992 and 2007) but we will take the next step when we 3 sibs are ready & all in the same place (Alaska, Arkansas & Massachusetts right now). There are some beautful alternatives to burying or scatttering ashes – I hope to take a little bit to use in ceramics or to have made into glass beads – I have a book some where with beautiful ideas.

    Deep breath – what a journey we are on!

  3. Susan-

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’d called up hospice in the past, but they said they can’t work with clients until the doctor says there are possibly only 6 or less months of life left. My mom’s miserable, but she’s not dying. Maybe you’ve found that hospice will provide resources to anyone in your area, and if that’s true, maybe I should try again and dig a little deeper.

    Thanks again-

  4. Laura-

    I absolutely adore the chocolate fountain idea. In fact, I like it so much that I want to do it NOW, while Mom’s alive and can enjoy it with her companions where she lives. Her 75th birthday is coming up this year, so I’m putting that on my list! Had never really heard of it before. Guess I need to get out more.

    Thanks also for the creative ideas for dealing with cremation. You inspired me to learn more. It’s a little easier plunging into this arena when others join in the discussion. Much appreciated!


    • Laura says:

      It makes me grin to know that you might find a chocolate fountain for your Mom’s BDay – I first saw one at a party for work. The only way I am surviving caregiving for my 92 year old Mother-in-law with PD & mild dementia is to add huge doses of whimsy to my own life. Can’t wait to see a photo on your blog of the chocolate fountain & perhaps some one with chocolate smeared on their nose …

      I can’t resist adding – wonder if you want to let them blow bubbles at the party – that is my own personal favorite to get me to lighten up (LY10UP) – when I want to strangle my mother in law or run away from home permanently – I blow bubbles which I have added essential oils to to promote balance or inner peace …forgive me if I have already mentioned bubbles on this blog … be well

  5. arlene says:

    Hi, Having just lost both my parents and caregiving my husband with PD I have quite a bit of unwanted experience. First of all Hospice is vital for your mothers comfort and your sanity! Call now. They saved us and I will be forever grateful. Regarding cremation. The funeral home you select will either release the cremains to you or forward to another state where they may be interred, that involves another funeral home. I would do everything in advance. I was blessed that my parents paid for and planned their funeral in advance. Dad died first and was interred in Fla, when Mom died 7 months later we gave up his niche and brought them both NY. You can often save a little if you pay in advance. IF your mother has a life insurance policy they will give you an amount toward the expenses prior to death. By the way we flew home with them and no one said a thing! Went right through carry on.
    My thoughts are with you. I miss my parents everyday.

  6. momsbrain says:

    Hi, Meg-
    I did some pre-payment for Mom’s funeral – mostly because I was forced to when I applied for Medicaid on her behalf. I had to get rid of her money, and pronto. I went to the only funeral home in town I would have ever considered, and talked to a director there. I know Mom wants to be cremated, but my brother and sister and I haven’t decided much more than that – whether to bury her cremains, whether to have her body present for a service (I don’t want to, but some people do that), what kind of service to have. We also are not religious. It helped to talk to the funeral director. I forked over about 2/3 of what will be required, signed a contract and left it that the details will be finalized later. My sister has agreed to pay the balance. Here is my blog post about it: http://momsbrain.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/decisions-decisions/

    Take care.

  7. Pingback: Advance Funeral Planning ~ Part 2 | The Dopamine Diaries

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