At Hope Hospice, we ask our patients and family members to share their wishes regarding the time they are in our care and beyond. Stating one’s desires about burial, cremation, funerals and other concerns is important to the patient. It also gives the family guidance on procedures following death.
This is not always an easy conversation to have. Patients and/or family members may want to delay discussion of these issues until later. But as a patient progresses in the death process, he or she may lose the ability to clearly communicate. His or her ability to make decisions may be limited as time goes on.
Making these choices early on, shortly after being admitted to hospice care, is the preferable way. Considering options and even prearranging certain details gives the patient comfort.
Sometimes family members are surprised by a patient’s wishes. Dad may want to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the ocean. Mom may want to donate her remains to medical science. A wife or husband may want to be buried in her or his hometown, not in the cemetery lot purchased nearby. The patient may wish to have a certain clergyman (or clergywoman) or a particular family member share remarks at a funeral.
While this important discussion is a vital part of hospice care, persons not yet facing death should speak about these issues. This is especially true when family members are in another city and in-person visits occur just a few times each year. Because an event such as a fall or a heart attack can lead to a rapid demise, it’s good to have an idea about your mom or dad’s wishes.
The conversation does not have to be grim and does not necessarily infer that you expect your parent, sibling or other loved one to die soon. You may learn that plans have already been made. You may also find that, because you have this conversation when your loved one is still in good health, it will be easier to talk about these issues when death is anticipated.
How about you? Do you have special wishes? Have you made your wishes known to your husband, your wife or your kids? Have the conversation and share your desires.