Raising the subject of death is very difficult, no matter what stage of life you’re at, and particularly when discussing this with an elderly relative. However, dealing with issues that can arise at this stage is important.
If that person has some specific ideas on how they want assets to be distributed, what kind of funeral they want and any wishes they may have for those left behind. Although it’s key to get these practical elements dealt with, doing it with care is important, especially if someone is in ill-health or no longer able to make informed decisions (for example, they have a dementia) – here are a few tips on how to approach this sensitive subject.
Formalise a will
Although people often regard a will with dread it’s simply a practical way of ensuring that someone’s possessions and assets go to the people they want them to. If there is no will then a person dies ‘intestate’ and everything will pass to a spouse and/or children/grandchildren without any control over who gets what, and in what shares.
Make reassuring promises (and keep them)
Sometimes, conversations like this are underpinned by anxiety about what will happen to something, or someone, after the person has died. Ask them what they would like done once they have passed away and, if possible, write this down. You can even include it in the will. Most importantly though, is to reassure that person that their wishes – whether they relate to a pet or a treasured possession – will be carried out.
Talk about everything
We often avoid conversations that are personal and in depth, but leaving things left unsaid in a situation where someone is facing death, is not a good idea. Encourage them to talk, ask them if they feel they’ve had a fulfilling life, what their favourite memories are etc. Not only will you find out more about them, you’ll encourage them to relive the good bits too.
Have an eye on comfort
It’s important to try and make someone’s last days as comfortable as possible, ask what they would like and what they need. If they are in hospital, would they rather be at home? It might mean you need to do some research into loaning out equipment etc. but if it makes their last days happier, it will be worth it.
After death care
Make sure you know what they want to happen to their body after they have passed on. This is a hard conversation to have but you may find that they want to donate organs but don’t yet have a donor card, or they may have very specific wishes about burial or cremation. Braving the conversation now, means you can draw some comfort from knowing you’re fulfilling their wishes, when the time comes.