Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dealing with Aging Parents - Funerals - Part 2

This is part two of my postings on funerals.

What happens when your loved one dies is the funeral home is contacted to carry their body to the funeral home. You can talk with whoever comes to pick up the body to arrange a time and day to meet with them to plan when you want to have the visitation and the funeral service. When you go to this session, bring your already written obituary, plus the name of the cemetery where the burial plots are and the name and contact info of the main speaker at the service. The young man we dealt with each time was very professional and caring and helped us greatly making sure we hadn’t forgotten anything in our planning the service. They’ll let you know what all needs to done to prepare for the funeral. My advice is to let them handle as much are you comfortable with. You’ll have plenty of other things to deal with.

Another thing that you’ll do at this meeting is tell them how many official death certificate copies you need from the state. You’ll need these for all sorts of things from claiming life insurance benefits, to accessing bank accounts and various other dealings. I’d tell you to order at least eight to ten and they’ll cost you six to seven dollars each. It will take two to four weeks for you to get these.

Finally, like any service you buy, the funeral home is going to want to arrange for payment. My advice is if at all humanly possible (and of course the money is available) is to have the money set aside somewhere that can be accessed easily – either by the surviving spouse or the children. I realize this is not always possible and you may have to wait for an insurance policy to pay out. Keep in mind you’ll need that death certificate to even file to even start this process. And it takes some time for the insurance company to process and pay this out. If you can’t pay at the meeting, somebody will have to sign a document promising to pay in thirty days. We got the death certificates for mom in two weeks and I hand walked it to the hospital (where she worked and had the policy) to process mom’s life insurance policy. We got the payout just two days before the thirty days was up. With dad, we put the money aside before he passed away and I was able to write a check on the spot.

We are still in the middle of two more issues as far as my parents go. One (which we are almost done with) is getting a headstone and preparing their funeral plot. The second is probating and settling their estate(s). I had no idea the amount of work that is required after your parents pass away. One tends to think that once the funeral is over "that is it". But, I can tell you "it is most certainly not it".

I hope these posts are of some value to you. When the two above issues are done, I will blog about them as well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dealing with Aging Parents - Funerals - Part 1

Discussing a funeral with your parents is tough. It’s admitting out loud what we already know – that we’ll have one someday, We did this at the recommendation of hospital staff when mom had her lengthy stay. I had no idea how to plan one. I’ll use my usual format of throwing out some issues we encountered and how we dealt with them
  • Discuss with each parent what they want done.  Do you they want to have the funeral at the funeral home or another location (their home church congregation for example)?  How do they want the funeral conducted? Mom wanted to allow the opportunity for her friends and family to be able to get up and say a few words about their memories of her.   So that’s what we did.
  • Write all of that down.  Make your siblings read it and even sign it so everybody totally understands what the person’s wishes are and how the service will be conducted so there are no disagreements and arguments when everybody is emotional.   And I won’t say any more about that.
  • Plan, plan, plan.  The funeral home you choose can give a list of packages and how much they cost.  Talk to the people that will lead singing, speak, be a pallbearer, etc. and make sure they are OK with that. Have your parents go ahead and buy the funeral plots if they can.  Go ahead and find any pictures, keepsakes etc  that you want to display.  Finally (and this sounds really macabre), go ahead and write out an obituary and have several people read it.  You’d be surprised at what you might not remember (name spellings and the like) when you are in sorrow over someone’s death.  It also makes thing go more smoothly when you are arranging everything with the funeral director to simply hand them an already written obituary.

Now let’s talk about the funeral itself.  Most funeral homes offer packages that include most everything you need (that costs between 4000 and 5000).  If you know what funeral home will be used, ask them to send you this info beforehand.   Read over that carefully and ask all the questions you want.  There are several things that are not included in that package.  The first one (and usually the most costly) is the casket.  I was surprised to find that the funeral home we used has a “casket room” where the caskets are on display.  I almost laughed to see they were arranged in the classic style of any sales layout.  The most expensive ones (the nice wood ones) were in the front and the more inexpensive ones were in the back.    We got a nice inexpensive casket each time for my parents, but even these will run you 2500 to 3000.  You should also check with the cemetery where the burial plots are to see if they require a vault for the casket.  If they do, that is another 1500.  You also have to pay to have the grave dug and recovered for about 400 to 500.  You may want to buy flowers and a “spray” to go over the casket which will cost 300 to 500.  Finally, it is customary to pay the main speaker at the service something.  The total funeral cost is easily between 7500 and 10000 dollars.

In my next post, I'll discuss what actually happens when you meet with the funeral director.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dealing with Aging Parents - Medicare - Part 2

I cannot possibly cover Medicare completely if I blogged for a year about it. I will throw out some suggestions for you that I think can help you and your parents with it.

  • Make sure your parents sign up for online access to their Medicare info This lets them see when claims are processed and you can see any issues (and try to thwart them) before you would get information by mail. It is preferable to see if your parents will let you have access as well.

  • When your parents get ready to sign up for Part D (Prescription), have them go to to price polices. They can put in the prescriptions they use and where they get their medicines and this tool will present you with the best options (considering cost and location) for their Part D policy

  • Have your parents speak with Medicare and allow you access via phone to be able to discuss Medicare issues with Medicare representatives if need be. All they have to do is call the Medicare toll free number and answer a few questions to do this. It can be very helpful to have the ability to do this especially if they are ill or simply cannot understand the complexities of Medicare. You will need their Medicare number - they should have a card with this info on it.
    Finally, I’ll throw out some specific situations we had issues with in case these might be helpful

  • My parents had primary insurance with mom’s employer (Lourdes) til the day she died with Medicare as the secondary. We didn’t know that we had to let them know that dad’s primary was now Medicare with no secondary once mom passed away. We figured it out when claims started being rejected for no apparent reason. Turns out you have to call a different group under Medicare to change that. The permission dad had given them to have me talk to them concerning his issues didn’t apply and I had to send them a copy of his Power of Attorney. Then there was a delay because the office was in New York City, and I tried to contact them during the week of Hurricane Sandy. It still took repeated phone calls and finally Lourdes Benefits sending them a letter saying that he no longer was covered by them to get the situation straight.

  • My dad was on oxygen. This is called DME (durable medical equipment) and covered under Part B. We found out the bizarre way they cover this when dad moved to Nashville to stay with my sister and nobody there would agree to provide his oxygen. Turns out Medicare pays for three years of oxygen supplies then the company covers the next two (not billing during those two years). Dad was near the end of his three years so of course no company wanted to pick up those two free years since they hadn’t gotten the paid three years. I talked with dad’s oxygen provider (Legacy Oxygen who was really good to work with). They explained the above to me and said they would work out a way to get tanks to dad. They couldn’t explain the Medicare logic to me though.

  • We would see claims that were regularly rejected for no apparent reason. In these situations, you should start with the provider (not Medicare). They can often tell you why and then refile. I was told multiple times – “Oh it’s Medicare, we are used to that”.

  • Expect to be on hold 10-30 minutes when you call. Also expect to get different answers to the same question. Always take down the time you called and who you talked to.

  • Hopefully this will be of some help to you.  

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    More on that Customer Service thing..

    As you might guess, we visit Lexington a lot.  I've stayed in several hotels there, but our most regular stay is the Doubletree Suites on Richmond Road.   We really enjoy staying there for multiple reasons.

    • You get that chocolate chip cookie when you check in.  Usually when we get there we are hungry.  We don't want to spoil our dinner and the cookie is just perfect to tide you over til then.   

    • It's a very nice hotel.  The rooms are all suites and have large jetted tubs in them.

    • They have a really good breakfast buffet.  It does cost 12.95 but you if you are Hilton Honors Gold or Platinum member, you get two of these each morning for free.

    • There is a Sonic and Panera Bread within walking distance.  That's perfect if you feel the need for a dessert.  We've had cookies and milk shakes on the spur of the moment multiple times.  There is also a Chilis, Zaxbys, and Krispy Kreme within half a mile of the hotel.

    • Both the UK campus and Downtown Lexington (Rupp Arena) are within a ten minute drive

    • Best of all of course, is it is within a half mile of Josh's apartment!

    • One thing you do have to beware of is the atrium.  It's very nice but sometimes booked for events that can last well into the night.  If you have a room where the bedroom faces it, it can be bothersome.  If you go to bed early, you should request a exterior facing room.

      I was there a couple of weeks ago visiting Josh for the weekend so we could see a Reds Cardinals game at the Great American Ballpark.  As you know, I am big on customer service.  Is it the one thing to me that can make a business stand out in the fierce competition for dollars today.  I had some really great customer service while I was there.  If you read my last post, you'll know that I got a new pillow that I just love.  I brought it with me. As I was checking out Sunday morning, I let the housekeeper know I was leaving the hotel in case she wanted to go ahead and start on my room.  I checked out and got in my car to go get Josh to get to North Lexington for Bible Study and Worship.  As I got ready to leave, I was surprised by the housekeeping lady next to my car window holding up my pillow.  She had come all the way to the back parking lot to chase me down with it!  I was so overjoyed that I had to give her a hug of gratitude and many thanks.  The next day I had my usual message I get from the hotel manager asking if I enjoyed my stay.  I told him about this and requested that he give the young lady accolades for her great customer service.  He assured me he would and seemed genuinely happy to know about this.

      If you do go to Lexington, I'd encourage you to consider staying at the DoubleTree Suites on Richmond Road.

      Saturday, June 15, 2013

      Fit for a King

      One of the things I've wanted for years and years is a king size bed.  I am a big guy and I flop a lot.  Whenever we go on a trip, we always get a king.  I even get a king sized bed when I am travelling on my own.  We've had our queen size mattress for so long I cannot remember when we got it.  The capper was one day when Donna went to lay down and jumped up like something bit her.  We searched around and finally found one of the springs had poked itself through.  That let us know it was time to go mattress shopping.

      I started reading online and it was much more complex than I ever would have dreams.  You have pillow-top, plush, and regular.  You have spring, gel and foam.  There are all sorts of different brands and it's almost impossible to compare mattresses (even across the same brand).  After a lot of reading, I went to a few stores and started trying to compare.  I finally gave up in frustration (this was last year).  We put a piece of electrical tape over the hole where the spring poked through.

      We decided to revisit buying a king sized bed this year.  Mattresses generally go on sale around Memorial Day.  Donna got involved in the research this time as well.  She felt like she wanted a firm mattress (given her back issues).  I thought a firm would do for me as well.  We didn't want any of the gel or foam type mattresses since Donna gets hot in her sleep.  So, with that in mind, we began again.  Armed with a newspaper ad, Donna headed for a large local mattress shop.  The sales lady immediately steered away from trying to look at any of the sale mattresses she was interested in.   She kept pushing her toward more expensive models.  Donna finally just left in frustration.

      We finally steeled ourselves to spend the Friday before Memorial Day going mattress shopping. I expected a long tiring day of that.  My only solace was were going to eat lunch out.  We started with Sleep Outfitters by the IHOP.  They had a big ad in the paper and looked somewhat promising.  When we got there, we went towards the back.  What I'd found out in my research was mattress stores were like a lot of shops, they put the more expensive showy stuff in the front.  As we headed toward the back and began checking things out, the salesman (Matt) came up.  We told him exactly what we wanted.  He asked us what our budget was and we told him.  We also told him we were interested in a firm mattress with a plush top (which almost seems like an oxymoron).  He took us to a mattress to try out.  It felt great.  Donna said she knew I liked it because she could tell from my posture that I was about to go to sleep.

      The mattress was a model that was being discontinued.  Turns out that mattresses change models almost like cars.  We had to purchase a new frame plus box springs.  I found out there is no such thing as a king box spring. You get two extra long twins instead.  I really liked the pillow as well.  I am really picky about my pillow.  When I find one I like, I even bring it on trips.   Even with the delivery charge, we met our budget.  The set wouldn't be delivered til next Friday.  That was fine since we were going to have to shuffle our current beds around first.  Jonathan and I spent Saturday morning moving Josh's old twin bed to Jonathan's room and our old queen bed to Josh's room.

      On Friday, the delivery guys arrived.  They hauled everything in and set everything up in less than 10 minutes. It was absolutely amazing.  It would have taken me hours to do that.  Then, Donna reminded me that she had a quilt put away that her and her great-grandmother had quilted together when she a teenager.   I'd never seen it spread out and it looked absolutely perfect (as you can see above). 

      The bed feels absolutely wonderful to sleep on.  I honestly feel I am sleeping better (and so is Donna) on it.  If you are looking for a new mattress, I would strongly recommend you check out what they have at the Sleep Outfitter store.