Creating Order Out of Chaos Following the Death of an Elder

The days and months following a death are filled with high emotion, chaos, and a laundry list of ‘to do’s.’ There is little time for family, friends, or caregivers to grieve.  The weight of these to-s on the survivor’s shoulders is significant.  At this moment in time, the most immediate need is creating order out of chaos.

It begins with listening – understand what’s important and necessary. It begins by listening and understanding what is necessary to be accomplished. This includes, but not limited to:

  • Declutter, sort, and liquidate a residence.
  • Search for specific legal documents, treasures, and memories.
  • Household inventory with financial or personal value – value family may not be aware of or value family is mistaken about.
  • Referral and coordination of property liquidation, sale, distribution.

Handling assets, inventory, and meeting  the needs of a surviving spouse, caregivers, 0r family members during the days and weeks following a death requires empowering decision makers and engaging family and caregivers.

Recognizing limitations and assessing the real needs of a situation are also essential.  If there are health issuers of a serving spouse, those needs must be met.  Sorting and liquidating physical assets easily can become a full time job for a family  member or caregiver.  If someone does assume the role, what happens to their work in the interim?  Assessing time required and the best way to efficiently invest that time cannot be done within a climate of emotion, grief, and chaos.

The team supporting the surviving spouse or family typically includes an attorney, CPA, financial consultant, and others.  The inclusion of an elder project manager who assumes the responsibility of project manager and coordinator of physical assets will enable family to concentrate on what is important at this moment in time; and, ensure family wealth and assets are preserved through an efficient liquidation process.

The single greatest error made by family, caregivers, or untrained professionals is quickly discarding all contents of the residence.  Elders who have been housebound or have had any physical or behavioral illness hide money, documents, and other important items within the residence. Knowing how and where to uncover hidden treasures is a primary task – not to be taken lightly.

Each family manages death in their own unique way.  Common among all cultures, faiths, and communities is the need to grieve.  Asking for help with the tasks at hand when a death occurs is a strength.  It is recognition that life continues to move forward concurrent with the need to grieve.