What To Do When “No Funeral” is Requested

Posted on Aug 21, 2017

While most deaths are followed by a funeral or memorial service, it’s not entirely uncommon for the deceased to decline a funeral in their will. A funeral serves two purposes – to honor the dead and get closure. So, when the deceased does not want a funeral, families are left wondering how to get the end result of a funeral without actually having a funeral. It’s hard to replace the familiarity of a funeral, but there are four ways you can still honor the dead and get some closure.

Obituary

Spend some time collecting details of your loved one’s life, and write a detailed and loving obituary. This process can be incredibly therapeutic, and seeing your loved one’s picture and story in print can give you closure. You can also rest well knowing you honored their memory well by telling their story and letting others enjoy it.

Carry on Their Hobbies and Projects

If they were passionate about keeping the lawn in pristine condition or tending to the rose bushes, keep these traditions alive. It’s a great way to honor your loved one long after they're gone, and it gives you a tangible way to remember them. Whenever you’re busy working on their project or enjoying their hobby, you can think back to all the good memories of them doing the same.

Donate to a Charity

Contact your loved one’s friends and the rest of the family to take up a donation for your loved one’s favorite charity and make the donation in their name. This allows you to do something they would have really appreciated.

Take a Trip

Find out where their favorite place in the world is and take a family trip there. It could be somewhere they went every year, where a major life event happened, or just their favorite trip they ever took. Once you're there, try to take a walk and reflect on their life. Having this connection will help you hold on the memories while still helping you move on.

Funerals aren’t the only way to get closure, as long as you honor their memory and abide by their last wishes, there’s a lot of different ways to write this chapter of life.  

Family Caregiver Tax Deductions

Posted on Aug 15, 2017

Being a caregiver for an ailing family member can take a heavy emotional toll and a heavy financial toll on the family budget. There’s the cost of medications, doctor’s appointments, and various medical equipment to consider. While most of these costs will be covered if the patient is enrolled in hospice care, these costs can be hard to cover out of pocket.

Thankfully, the IRS does allow some of these costs to be counted as tax deductible. These deductions won’t totally recoup the cost of caregiving, but they can help balance the budget a bit.

Defining Medical Expenses

According to the IRS, a medical expense is defined as, “the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body.”

Caregivers can write off the cost of medical expenses made on behalf of qualifying relatives. This includes payments made for doctors, surgeries, medical supplies and equipment, and a few other related expenses.

Qualifying Relative

As mentioned above, in order for these payments to qualify as tax deductible they must be in regard to a qualifying relative. The IRS defines a qualifying relative as, someone who the caregiver provides over half of the support for in a year and claimed a total income of less than $4,050 on last year’s tax return. Dependents can also count as qualifying relatives in most cases.

It’s important to note that the qualifications of a medical expense and a qualifying relative are both subject to change as the IRS sees fit. So, before you claim a caregiver tax deduction, make sure you’re doing so based on the current IRS standards. For full definitions and regulations, go to www.irs.gov.

There are also limits to the amount of deductions you can claim in each year. Tax deductions are limited to the amount of total medical expenses that surpass 10 percent of adjusted gross income if the taxpayer is 64 or younger, or 7.5 percent if the taxpayer or spouse is 65 or older. 

What Happens to Pets When Owners Die?

Posted on Aug 14, 2017

According to the Humane Society, as many as 500,000 pets end up in a shelter every year because their owners die. While we typically expect to outlive our pets, it doesn’t always happen that way. If you or a loved one is advanced in years and a pet owner, there needs to be a plan in place for the four-legged friend. To make sure pets are taken care of, there are a few options.

Last Will and Testament

Including the pet’s name in the will is a good start, but it’s best to actually name a caregiver to be sure. Pets are treated like any other piece of property when we die, and will be included in any asset division. However, since pets hold more value than a TV, designating someone in the will who is willing to care for the pet is a best practice.

Pet Trust

Setting up a free-standing traditional pet trust will allow pet owners to specify care standards and provide money for the pets. This legal document can be in effect for up to 21 years or until the pet dies. This method is a bit more complicated and will require the help of an attorney.

Pet Protection Agreement

If you know who will be taking care of the pet after you pass, you can create a pet protection agreement. This will clearly name the new guardian, outline care instructions, provide money for care, and allow for a smooth transition. Without something like this in place, it can take months for a judge to rule on where the pet will end up.

Although pets feel like part of the family, they are legally treated as property and need to be accounted for in your final wishes. No matter what method you use, it’s important to make sure your pet will be taken care of.

Traveling with Alzheimer’s

Posted on Jul 18, 2017

Traveling with Alzheimer’s

Summer is one of the busiest travel times of the year. With summer vacations hitting full stride, families are embarking on road trips and flying to all four corners of the map. When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, families often feel they need to cancel their upcoming trips. While this might be needed if the disease has progressed far enough, it is possible to travel with a family member who has Alzheimer’s if you take the appropriate precautions.

Use as Many Routines as Possible

Traveling any considerable distance will necessitate breaking a few routines, but try to stick to routine when you can. Change can be strenuous for Alzheimer’s patients, so it might be best to travel to places they’ve been to before. Keep meals at the same time they're used to eating, and pick foods you know they enjoy.

Rest is Important

Vacationing can end up being surprisingly stressful when you try to cram in so many experiences in such a short time. This fast pace can really take its toll on Alzheimer’s patients, so be sure to budget for naps and plenty of rest.

Plan Your Packing

Medications should be the first item on your packing checklist. Plan enough medication to last the entire trip and bring enough for a few extra days just in case. You’ll also want to pack some snacks, and maybe a few puzzle books to keep them entertained for the drive or flight.  

Be Flexible

You never really know what might come up when traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Give them plenty of attention, and frequently ask how they’re doing. If you’re staying with family or friends, let everyone know about the condition and how they can help.

It’s always best to talk with your loved one’s doctor before taking a trip. Let the doctor know where you’re going and what you’re doing, and ask if they think your loved one is able to travel. 

What is a Hospice Medical Director?

Posted on Jul 11, 2017

Hospice Medical Director

One of the many benefits of hospice care is the interdisciplinary team of medical professionals who will care for the patient. This team is made up of volunteers, chaplains, social workers, aides, nurses, and medical directors. For this week’s blog, we’ll be taking a closer look at the role of the medical director.

Given the unique nature of the hospice industry, a medical director has slightly different duties and responsibilities than a general practice doctor. To fully understand how hospice works, it’s important to understand what exactly medical directors do.

The main focus of the medical director is to construct and administer the end-of-life care plan for each patient. This means the medical director will meet with each patient, assess their needs, and develop a care plan that meets the needs of each patient. They are then responsible for communicating this plan to the rest of the hospice team and any other caregivers that may be assisting in the care of the patient.

As the needs of the patient change, the medical director will adjust the plan accordingly and inform everyone of the changes. They are also the main resource for the rest of the team and the family in the event a question arises about the care plan or condition of the patient.

Medical directors spend a surprising amount of time talking with families and explaining what’s happening with the patient. This is one of the most important roles medical directors have. It’s imperative families fully understand the treatment plan and can make informed decisions.

On a similar note, medical directors are also tasked with carrying out the patient’s final wishes. If the patient has any advanced directives, like a DNR, it’s the medical director’s job to make sure everyone is aware of these wishes and does not deny them.

Lastly, the medical director is in charge of ensuring all safety and health standards are being met. It’s their job to use unbiased data to ensure the care provided is of the highest level and to check for any areas that need improvement.