top banner

March 2014

Honoring the Memories of a Lifetime

March 2014 - Around The Town Enewsletter


Protecting Your Assets by Pre-Planning
Are Email Or Online Condolence Messages OK?
Companioning – Bearing Witness To Grief


Protecting Your Assets by Pre-Planning
By Adam Kraut, Prearrangement Specialist, Buch Funeral Home

Couple PhotoNo one wants their hard-earned assets to be whittled away by medical or health care expenses. Fortunately, there are certain ways to protect or "spend-down" assets so that they are excluded - and thus sheltered - from the total assets considered to qualify for Medicaid.

What is Medicaid? Medicaid is a joint state and federally funded health insurance program intended for people with low resources in dire need of medical care. Those whose non-exempt assets are above a certain amount cannot qualify for assistance until their assets are drained by health care costs. This can be devastating for a family that has saved diligently over the years, especially if a spouse or dependent child is involved.

A pre-paid irrevocable funeral contract is allowable for an individual and his or her spouse for the purpose of asset protection or spend-down. Pre-payment shelters these funds so that they are not lost to nursing home care and can be used for final expenses.  

The pre-paid burial plan can include: funeral goods and services (including cremation services), casket, outer burial container, urn, cemetery fees, newspaper notices, honorariums to clergy and musicians, flowers, transportation costs, gravestones, cemetery plots, and even a luncheon or catered meal.

In Lancaster county, the suggested maximum limit for an individual's burial reserve is currently $12,343.

In addition to one's own pre-paid burial plan, those who are spending-down assets to qualify for Medicaid can also protect funds for immediate family members and their spouses. Burial space items may be purchased for:  adult or minor children, adoptive children, step children, brothers, sisters, parents, adoptive parents, step parents, and the spouses of all these persons. These will also be deemed excludable assets for the purposes of qualifying for Medicaid.

The purchase of pre-paid funeral contracts is an important part of estate planning. Please be sure to consult our licensed directors who can assist you in creating a properly structured plan.



Are Email Or Online Condolence Messages OK?

Hands Typing ComputerTechnology has permeated every possible type of human interaction. We date online, text our family, Skype with friends. So is it OK to communicate electronically when someone dies?
Peggy Post, director and spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute, says it's OK to use technology to communicate the news of a death with friends and family, but there are a few things you should keep in mind while online.
News Of A Death
If you are personally notified by immediate family members of the death of a friend or relative, ask if there is anyone they would like you to contact with the news. Whenever possible, contact them in person or by phone with the news. Be aware that it may take some time to contact all family members, so don’t broadcast the news on Facebook or Twitter until after an official announcement has been made in the newspaper or online. This will spare friends and family from getting a shock when they look at Facebook.
Keep in mind that everyone shares the news of a death in different ways. If the family members don’t use social media to announce the passing of a loved one, then don’t put posts on their page referring to their loss.
Email Messages
Many folks wonder if it’s OK to email someone with a sympathy message. The answer depends on who the recipient. Unless you are extremely close with the family, they probably don’t want to speak with too many people on the phone immediately following a death.
Using email to send a quick note with your condolences is OK. Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, says an email is an immediate and non-intrusive way to show you are thinking about a friend or co-worker in the initial days following the death of a family member. She suggests following with a handwritten note.
Online Memorials
Today, newspapers are not the only place you will find obituaries. They are also posted on the online version of the newspaper, on the funeral home website and even website that are dedicated specifically to memorializing loved ones. This proliferation of obituaries makes it hard not only to know who created the online posting, but whom, if anyone, is monitoring the memorial messages and sympathy notes. Bottom line – don’t assume that the family has seen your message.
Once you’ve posted a message, you may want to also send a written message.
Whether you choose to follow up with a condolence letter depends on your relationship with the deceased and the family.
Another point to remember about online condolence messages is that they are all seen by whoever visits the website. Keep this in mind when drafting your message.


Companioning – Bearing Witness To Grief
Excerpts from Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s Frontline

Wooden PathwayBearing witness to the struggles of someone experiencing the darkness of grief – having empathy – is the deepest form of emotional and spiritual interaction you  can have with another human. If you can hear another person’s words of pain and loss, not from a place of clinical distance but from a place of an open heart, then you can bring a fully alive human presence to bear on the other human being’s experiences. Overcoming any tendency to judge will allow you to be taught by the griever. This active empathy will naturally create an environment in which healing can and will occur.

However, we are often hesitant of reopening our own wounds. Instead of being able to companion a fellow struggler, we may be overwhelmed by the conscious re-creation of our own painful feelings. So, instead of being open to the presence of the pain of the loss, we may deny people their experiences, we may problem solve or technique people, or we may minimize or compare experiences. To be able to enter into the wilderness with a person in the depths of grief, therefore, requires the embracing of our own heartfelt emotions. Then, and only then, are we able to give the most precious gift – our compassionate companionship.

Expressing Compassion
Bearing witness to the struggles of people in grief is about having compassion. Compassion embraces our common humanity; our feelings of togetherness. This word compassion is rarely used in mainstream grief counseling literature, yet it is the very essence of what bereaved people both need and deserve. While empathy refers to “feeling with” the grieving person, compassion is about “feeling for” the grieving person.

Being Involved in the Feeling World
Bearing witness to the struggle of the griever is anchored in striving to understand the meaning of her experience from the inside out rather than imposing meaning from the outside in. Active empathy means the caregiver is attentively involved in a process of exploration. The companion is trying to grasp what it is like inside the soul – the life-force – of the griever.

Empathetic responsiveness requires the ability to go beyond the surface and to become involved in the mourner’s feeling world, but always with an “as if” quality of taking another’s role without personally experiencing what the other person experiences.

Not Trying to “Fix Things”
The more you encourage the mourner to teach you from a position of concerned curiosity, the less you will feel any need to fix things. As you allow yourself to be taught, you are relieved of any burden to get people where you would like them to go.

Embracing Feelings of Loss
Observation suggests that some people who attempt to help grieving people hesitate to elicit feelings such as sadness, loneliness, anxiety and hurt. However, experience suggests that such hesitation is a form of defensive protection for the caregiver who finds it threatening to respond at any true emotional-spiritual level to the mourner.