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Bereavement

For caregivers, end-of life issues do not stop when the person they are caring for dies. As the process of grieving begins, caregivers must also continue making practical decisions and arrangements, including getting a death certificate, finding a funeral home, and arranging for services.

Practical Issues

The days, weeks, and months after a death can be overwhelming. Dealing with legal and financial issues in a timely fashion may seem too difficult, stressful, or even distasteful. Two helpful resources are the following:

  1. AARP provides extensive information about end-of-life issues on its Web site, as well as links to resources about specific issues of law, grief, and loss. For a helpful checklist, click on "Family," then "Life After Loss."
  2. "Checklist Following Death" is another helpful list of tasks. It summarizes practical issues, such as how to identify income and assets of the deceased, and how to minimize debts of the decedent.

Bereavement Support

Life is unalterably changed after the loss of an elder. As our society continues to explore how to deal with death and dying, we are also learning and understanding more about grieving. You may want to check back with organizations and professionals you depended on as a caregiver, such as a resource specialist at your Area Agency on Aging (AAA), a staff member or volunteer at the local Council on Aging (COA), your elder's primary care physician, or your own doctor.

Organizations that provide bereavement services and support groups include the following:

  1. Bereavement Magazine offers articles, stories, poems, and resources for the bereaved through its magazine Living with Loss. Obtaining copies of the magazine may be especially helpful for those who are less comfortable using the Web.
  2. Griefnet provides access to 50 e-mail support groups and Web sites. The support groups are organized by the relationship the caregiver had to the deceased, including a group for adult children of elderly parents. Go to the Web site and click on "Adult Support Groups," then "Groups List."
  3. People Living With Cancer provides a helpful overview about how to cope with change after a death. Click on "Coping," then "Grief and Bereavement," then "Coping after a Loss." The information is not just for people who have lost an elder to cancer, but for anyone dealing with loss after a death.

Looking Ahead

It is important for caregivers who have devoted months—often years—to the care of an elder to give themselves time to grieve. Not only have you lost a loved one, but you have also lost your role as caretaker. However stressful that way of life may have been, it perhaps has been the consuming focus of your life. Now more than ever, caregivers need support. Reaching out to family, friends, your doctor, your mental health provider, your clergy, and others can really help. Contact the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) for a directory of counselors and other advice.

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