Helping families honor someone after death

By Troy Ann Kasuboski, Director of Business Development

My family and I recently said good-bye to my father, a proud family man and U.S. veteran who lived his final days in an assisted living community due to Alzheimer’s disease.

As we planned the funeral, we took great care in recognizing his legacy of military service with a 21-gun salute and flag folding ceremony. And, we asked friends and relatives to remember him by donating to Alzheimer’s research to help end the disease that took his life.

All of these plans were made prior to the funeral while my mother, siblings and I were in the throes of grief. It was at the funeral where I realized we missed an opportunity to establish another remembrance for our deceased loved one.

A way to thank my father’s final caregivers

I had written about my parent’s individual health issues in my blog on “Acceptance by choice or circumstance.” These health issues left them separated in different senior care communities. My mother healed and returned home; my father remained in assisted living, being treated by a wonderful team of caregivers.

When the family who owns the assisted living facility where my father was cared for came to the funeral to pay their respects, they were full of praise for my dad. I was so touched they took the time to express their condolences in person that they stayed in my mind long after the ceremony was done. That’s when I realized our family had recognized his military service and the disease that took him, yet we didn’t recognize those who cared for him in the end.

Given the chance to recast the family vote, I would have pitched establishing a memorial fund at Dad’s assisted living community. The facility is in dire need of improvements, and our contributions could have made a long-term impact.

Helping families pay tribute to a loved one who passed away

Many long-term care communities don’t have a memorial giving program, and I suspect many feel that asking for donations is an imposition during a time of grief. But, having just gone through the grieving process, I know I would have welcomed information on how to leave a lasting legacy to Dad’s caregiving team. Our funeral home provided resources on contributing to Alzheimer’s research. Why couldn’t a senior living community do the same?

Giving families a simple packet that includes ways to honor someone after death is an unobtrusive way to make an ask. Appeal to the family by talking about your facility’s needs that will boost the quality of life for residents who remain and those who are yet to arrive. The ask goes beyond the memorial bench or tree we see so often at our long-term care communities. It needs to educate the family on the most fiscally responsible, long-term way of leaving a legacy that benefits others on a local level.

Millions of people are in long-term care, and about one-quarter of them remain there for more than three years. During that time, you often bond not only with the resident but with his or her family. The work you do in providing care and safety to loved ones is a blessing to these families. If you don’t already have a giving program in place, I encourage you to start one. You may be surprised at how willing these family members may be to contribute to the place that brought their parents or loved ones comfort during their final days and years.

If you’ve established a memorial program at your long-term care facility, I’d love to hear from you. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

– Troy