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Archive for March, 2011

We all worry about our children when they’re small, and as they’re growing up, and do all we can to make their lives safe and happy. For most of us though, by the time they are grown up, we can relax a bit knowing that, in the main, they’re finally able to take care of themselves, although it doesn’t necessarily stop us from worrying. When the time comes for us to shake off our mortal coils, our offspring are usually middle-aged with young adult children of their own.

Sadly, some parents never get to this point. Depending on the degree to which their particular condition impacts on their ability to live independent lives, special needs children may very well rely on their parents, to a greater or lesser extent, for the whole of their parents’ lives. An almost universal worry of parents of special needs children is what will happen to them after they, the parents, are no longer around. There may be other children in the picture but even then parents can feel guilty about leaving them with this additional responsibility. Also, as no one can predict the future, there are no guarantees that brothers or sisters will, in fact, outlive their special needs sibling.

Of course, as people with special needs age and their parents die, the state could more than likely take ultimate responsibility for their care and, if required, for their burial and cremation when they pass on. We’re not criticising what the state provides as we’re sure that, in the absence of parents or other family members, the social workers and carers who are looking after these adults at the time of their death do their absolute best to give them a dignified funeral. But wouldn’t it bring greater peace of mind to know exactly what kind of send off your child was going to receive?

Parents can plan NOW for the passing of their special needs child, regardless of their current age, specifying the details of any funeral service, selecting readings, music, flowers, type of coffin and burial, location of final resting place and write a personal tribute to their child which could then be incorporated into a eulogy at the time of their passing. As it’s unlikely that a special needs adult will ever be in a position to plan their own funeral, it makes perfect sense for parents to make these decisions rather than professional carers, no matter how well they have come to know the child as an adult and how well meaning they are.

Lovingly Managed offers a service by which we take instructions from parents regarding the funeral of a special needs child which we can ensure are carried out at the time of their passing. Even though we personally may have passed on ourselves, our business will go on and of course copies of the plan can be provided to family, friends, carers or local authorities for future use and knowledge.

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Last September an elderly woman died. In the immediate aftermath of her death, no one in her family got round to letting her credit card provider, MBNA, know that she had passed on. Although she had a zero balance, unfortunately her annual service charge became due shortly after her death and this was charged to her card. Because this wasn’t settled, late fees and interest were also added in October and November. By the time this was picked up by her grandson, she had a balance of £60 on her card.

The following interchange that took place between her grandson and the MBNA credit card call centre was reported recently in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

Grandson: ‘I am calling to tell you that she died in September.’
MBNA: ‘The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’
Grandson: ‘Maybe, you should turn it over to collections.’
MBNA: ‘Since it is two months past due, it already has been.’
Grandson: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?’
MBNA: ‘Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!’
Grandson: ‘Do you think God will be mad at her?’
MBNA: ‘Excuse me?’
Grandson: ‘Did you just get what I was telling you ? The part about her being dead?’
MBNA: ‘Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor.’

Supervisor gets on the phone:

Grandson: ‘I’m calling to tell you she died in September.’
MBNA: ‘The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’
Grandson: ‘You mean you want to collect from her estate?’
MBNA: (Stammer) ‘Are you her lawyer?’
Grandson: ‘No, I’m her grandson’ (Lawyer info given)
MBNA: ‘Could you fax us a certificate of death?’
Grandson: ‘Sure.’ (fax number is given)

After MBNA gets the fax:

MBNA: ‘Our system just isn’t set up for death. I don’t know what more I can do to help.’
Grandson: ‘Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don’t think she will care.’
MBNA: ‘Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.’
Grandson: ‘Would you like her new billing address?’
MBNA: ‘That might help.’
Grandson: ‘ Heaton Cemetery , Heaton Road , Newcastle upon Tyne Plot 1049.’
MBNA: ‘Sir, that’s a cemetery!’
Grandson: ‘Well, what the f*** do you do with dead people on your planet?’

Apparently, MBNA were not available for comment when a reporter from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle rang.

The reaction of most people reading this will be to laugh at the farcical standard of the customer service provided by a huge organisation that, in the 21st century, really should have the appropriate processes in place to handle this situation. I mean, surely they realise, sometimes their customers WILL DIE. Fortunately in this case, the caller was the switched on and emotionally resilient grandson. But how different might it have been had it been an emotionally vulnerable elderly widow who’d just lost her husband having that conversation with some badly briefed and poorly trained call centre agent?

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Many large corporations continue to demonstrate an unbelievably insensitive attitude to people calling to report someone’s death which, depending on the closeness of the relationship between the deceased and the caller, can serve to increase levels of distress. Corporations though, who rarely seem to want to accept responsibility for the failings in their own internal processes, will no doubt prefer to pass the buck, saying that they should have been notified earlier and then the situation would never have arisen. But that is not real life. Death can be messy and disorganised. Delays can occur when a family is left with a large amount of paperwork and other practical tasks to sort out when someone’s died, which they probably have to fit around their own already busy lives and, unsurprisingly, calling a credit card company may not be top of their list of priorities.

Of course, it is just this sort of situation that Lovingly Managed can help people avoid, either because the deceased person had the foresight to complete one of our End of Life plans so the required information is easily accessible, making the administrative burden so much easier to manage for those left behind, or because the grieving husband, wife or family of the bereaved can hand over all this kind of liaison to us to sort out on their behalf. As a third party with no emotional connection to the deceased we can deal with these kinds of interactions professionally and dispassionately and with no risk of being upset by the quality of service we receive, whatever that may be.

www.lovinglymanaged.com

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