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Funeral Planning and Costs
Choosing the Right Housing Option For A Senior


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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# Monday, April 21, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008 5:30:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

If you're like the majority of  Canadians, funeral planning is not a topic you wish to think about. Whether it's your own funeral, or that of a loved one, it's a subject that we all put off planning. But do you even know how much a typical funeral costs? What are your options? What about pre-paid funerals? These are all questions that do require some thought as well as financial planning, and should also factor into the amount of your life insurance coverage.

Pre-paid funerals do have certain advantages. It ensures that your wishes are specifically carried out, and takes the pressure away from your loved ones of making plans during their time of bereavement. It also removes the financial burden from your family. Pre-paying your own funeral also gives you the time to shop around for the best prices and to decide your own budget. If you do choose this option, make sure you inform your family of these arrangements, who you have pre-paid, and give someone copies of all the necessary paperwork. While pre-paid funerals are designed to give everyone involved peace of mind, there are some disadvantages to this option. For instance, there is no guarantee that the service provider you have pre-paid will still be in business at the time of your death. If you die before all the payments have been completed, the service provider may demand that your survivors pay the outstanding balance before they will honor the contract. As well, if you happen to move outside of the area that the service provider services, you run the risk of not being able to get a refund and/or transferring the services. Penalties may also be assessed for any late payments, and if you change your mind, there is a chance that you will be refunded substantially less than what you have paid in. Canadian provinces may have different regulations regarding this topic, so research what the current law is in your home province.

An alternative to a pre-paid funeral is to set up an interest bearing account that is specifically earmarked for your funeral expenses. This choice will still give you the time to decide on what type of service you would like, as well as pricing the various options you have. If you choose this type of planning however, you must keep in mind that the prices of what you have chosen will probably increase as time goes on, and plan accordingly. Once again, if you die before enough money has accrued in the earmarked account, your loved ones will be faced with either going against your wishes, or having to pay the balance themselves. As well, your loved ones must be able to quickly access the bank account, as well as be informed and able to carry out your wishes.

In order to either plan your own funeral, or plan one for a loved one, you must be aware of all your options, and what these cost. The average funeral in Canada today can range in price from $2,500 to $6,000. This price range does not include such added expenses like a burial plot, headstone, etc. Burial plots can range in prices depending on the location of the cemetery; as well not all burial plots are priced the same, some "desirable" locations within the cemetery are usually more expensive. Likewise, the size and detail of a headstone will determine the cost. The cost of a funeral will depend on what type of service you want, whether you choose burial or cremation, etc.

The 2 most common choices are funerals and memorial services. Memorial services are generally less expensive, as there is no casket, no embalming and no grave liner costs involved. A typical memorial service will cost around $2500, depending on what type of service you are planning. This does not include the cost of cremation however, which can cost anywhere from $500 up to $2000.  A memorial service is simply a service to commemorate the deceased's life; usually the body has already been cremated. Because there is no body present, there are more choices available regarding the location of the memorial service. This type of service tends to be more informal than the more traditional funeral.

Funerals have long been the most commonplace option when a loved one dies. Depending on the type of funeral planned, the cost can run from $2500 to over $7500. Although this is a more expensive alternative to a memorial service, funerals offer the advantage of the funeral home bearing most of the responsibility for the arrangements. They will arrange for the transportation of the body to the funeral home, as well as file the necessary paperwork such as the Declaration of Death. By law, Canadian funeral providers must present you with an itemized list of the prices for all the services and products that they offer. It is important to ascertain whether or not the funeral provider is what is known as an immediate disposition funeral provider; this type of provider has limited facilities and does not offer all services. Legally, a funeral provider must disclose that the facility is not allowed by law to provide full-range funeral services.

Choosing a funeral home, especially when planning the funeral for a loved one, can be difficult. If no previous arrangements have been made, and you need to acquire the services of a funeral home, asking the following questions will help you to choose the right facility:

• Can the funeral home accommodate all your needs? Do they have a chapel, visitation room, reception room, catering facilities, etc?
• Who have your friends and/or family used in the past and can recommend?
• Is the funeral home in good standing with an applicable professional association?
• How long has the funeral home been in your community? What is their professional and personal reputation?

It is important to understand what exactly a funeral home does when assisting you with a funeral. Typically, a complete funeral service requires 80 hours of work; this does vary depending on the individual needs of the family as well as any personal and/or religious requests. The majority of the funeral costs are incurred by charges for professional service, merchandise and final disposition. A qualified funeral director will be able to explain these costs, and assist you with planning a funeral that conforms to your budget.

The professional fee that is charged by the funeral home should include such services as:

• Transfer of body from place of death to the funeral home
• Obtaining the medical certificate of death and completion of government forms, registering the death and obtaining any necessary permits
• Sanitary care of the body, including embalming, restoration, and readying the body for viewing if requested. Embalming is not a legal requirement, but it may be required in instances where the body is being transported after 72 hours.
• Use of the funeral home and all necessary facilities such as: arrangement office, reception area(s), preparation room, chapel, selection room, parking, etc. This should also include the use of service vehicles (i.e. hearse).
• Transfer of the deceased to the crematorium and/or cemetery
• Complete personal supervision of all service arrangement details that precede as well as follow the services: the arrangement conference with the family, preparing and placing an obituary notice, consulting with clergy, cemetery and/or crematorium, arranging and caring for floral arrangements.

The other major expense is the merchandise, i.e. casket, urn, etc. It is important to remember that by law, a funeral home must display their lowest priced caskets and urns. They must also have a book/brochure illustrating the entire product line of caskets that they sell.

Using a reputable funeral home can make the time of bereavement much easier as they will take care of all the details for you. They can also help you make arrangements that are within your budget, as well as helping you to honor any specific requests that may have been made by the deceased.

It’s important when choosing the amount of your life insurance coverage that you incorporate the funeral expenses. You may want to consult with a funeral director in order to understand what all will be involved, and what expenses your survivors will be facing. You may also want to consult with your life insurance broker about ensuring that you have the right amount of coverage.

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# Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 8:11:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

For many Canadian seniors, maintaining their independent residence sometimes isn't a feasible option. Health issues may make living alone a dangerous situation for some people. Children and/or caregivers of seniors who are facing this issue may be confused as to what is entailed, what level of care is needed for that individual, and what is covered by provincial insurance and what isn't.

Some seniors may be able to live in their home (at least for a period of time), provided they have In-Home Care services. Many different programs are available; some are funded by government agencies or non-profit organizations, while others are offered by for-profit private service organizations. The home care services that are typically provided include:

• Personal nursing care
• Physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy
• Speech therapy
• Counseling
• Day programs
• Friendly visiting
• Transportation
• Foot care
• Homemaking and/or home maintenance
• Information and/or referrals
• Meal programs (i.e. Meals On Wheels)
• Respite Care
• Emergency Response Service

If you think that the senior you care for may need these types of services, contact a local agency to get an assessment. Some services may be covered under Ministry of Health funding, regardless of income; as well, some may offer a subsidy for those who fall within a certain income bracket. Some however, will have to be paid for out-of-pocket if you do not have private insurance coverage.

For seniors who are no longer able to live on their own, a retirement residence may be the best solution. This can be the ideal arrangement, giving the senior the level of support and security they require while being able to maintain their independence and privacy. A retirement residence can also offer the social aspect for those seniors who are feeling lonely and isolated. Retirement residences can greatly vary in terms of what services they offer, as well as the types of accommodation they offer (i.e. single or shared rooms), as well as prices. The majority of retirement residences are privately owned and operated with no government funding, which means you and/or the resident must assume all the costs.

If you are looking into a retirement home for a loved one or someone you provide care for, it is essential that the senior is actively involved in the selection process. Some things to remember when choosing a retirement residence are:

• Make a list of all homes you plan on visiting; also make a list of questions you want to ask, so you won't forget when you are there. Keep notes on the different homes you visit.
• Ask questions not only of staff, but of the residents. Ask their perceptions of the residence, as well as what they like and dislike.
• Don't visit just once, plan another visit, but at a different time of day (i.e. go for a lunch or dinner)
• Ask to view all of the residence, not just the room and common areas. Checking the kitchen and stairwells can give you a good indication of the level of cleanliness and how often things are maintained.
• Ask if they will allow the prospective resident to actually spend a night at the residence, so that they can get a better idea of what to expect.
• Ask for a list of families who will give the facility a recommendation.
• Ask about the neighborhood, i.e. how close are such things as hospitals, churches, dentists, etc.
• Ask about the fees, i.e. is everything included in the price quoted, or will you have to pay extra for additional services, and if so, how much
• Ask how often are their rates increased, and how much notice do they provide for the increase in price

Long-Term Health Facilities (formerly known as nursing homes) are different than retirement residences. A long-term facility is needed for those seniors who have significant health issues and who require a greater deal of care. This type of care is needed for those who, because of age and/or level of disability, can no longer be properly cared for in the community. This is an ideal solution for those seniors who require care on a regular basis, but who do not require long-term hospitalization. Some long-term facilities are publicly funded, while others are not.

If you are facing the challenge of finding services for a senior in your care, you need to find out what exactly their insurance will cover. You may also want to consider the possibility of needing these services in the future, and have the right insurance that addresses this issue. Tangible offers a hybrid policy that combines life insurance with a long-term care component. If needed, a certain percentage of the policy converts into LTC insurance, if not, it simply remains as life insurance. This type of policy offers you the flexibility and security of being able to ensure that you will have the right type of coverage for whatever your needs may be.

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