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How to Talk about Pre-Planning Funeral and Cemetery Arrangements

Death is hard. Whether we're facing it, dealing with it or even thinking about it, mortality is the one topic most if not all people hate to talk about.

This naturally makes pre-planning funeral and cemetery arrangements an uncomfortable discussion, especially when it comes to broaching the subject with an older loved one.

Pre-planning final arrangements isn't just about death.

It provides peace of mind that final wishes are fulfilled, survivors won't have to make critical decisions under duress and it can include a financial plan for covering expenses.

And with the right approach, pre-planning doesn't have to be grim.

There are many difficult "talks" adult children and relatives need to have with parents or aging family members like moving from home to a senior care facility or taking the keys to the car when driving skills decline.

Pre-planning certainly falls into that category, but the first thing to realize is that it doesn't have to be a "talk" at all.

Be Conversational

There's no need to schedule a kitchen table conversation about funeral plans and cemetery arrangements. It's OK to be subtle when nudging a loved one toward pre-planning.

"It should be an ongoing discussion," says Carol Bradley Bursack, a senior caregiving consultant, columnist and author of Minding Our Elders. "This is a normal part of life."

You can gradually break the ice in casual conversation about family and friends dealing with recent loss or even current events. The everyday "did you hear about what happened to so-and-so" chat can uncover insights into your loved one's wishes.

An adverse reaction to cremation might indicate they'd like to a traditional burial, for example. A critique of someone's funeral services could reveal likes and dislikes of what they would want for themselves.

Establishing an ongoing discussion opens the door to take things a step further and ask directly about their preferences for final arrangements.

Start the Pre-Planning Conversation Early

Pre-planning isn't reserved for someone of a certain age or in declining health. In fact, pre-planning is about avoiding that scenario.

"Things are so much more comfortable when people aren't in a stress mode or a crisis mode," Bursack says. "It's better to start when people are healthy and can still make their own decisions."

When decisions like senior care and pre-planning are a part of an ongoing conversation, your loved one can be an active contributor to the discussion and ease into the acceptance that these things are a part of life.

The sooner you start talking about it, the better. The timing varies, but Bursack recommends taking steps well before retirement.

Make It Official and Move On

Think of pre-planning funeral and cemetery arrangements as a natural extension of important documents like a health care directive, designation of a power of attorney for finances, a will and long-term care insurance.

"You want to make it clear that you're not doing this because they're old and going to die, you're doing this because everyone needs to do it," Bursack says.

If you're in the process of getting late-life plans together yourself, you might also invite your loved one to join you.

Getting the initial wishes on paper grants peace of mind. Like wills, insurance and the like, pre-planning is fluid and subject to change as life goes on.

Death, after all, is simply a part of life. So, establishing at least a simple list of preferences allows you to get on with living with the assurance survivors will be comforted and protected by pre-planning decisions.