For updated COVID-19 precautions and FAQs, please click here for more information.

Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Things to Know When Your Parent is Dying… And Services to Help in the Fair Oaks Area.

April 26, 2012

I’m so honored to be listed among the recommended resources this wonderful article by Sally Dunbar– an excellent realtor in Fair Oaks. With her permission, I’ve reprinted her entire article and great advice below.

I have learned a lot about the services available for your dying parent, as I watched my dad passed away in March, 2012. I wanted to share my best tips and favorite services when your parent is dying – especially in the Fair Oaks area.

First and foremost, the most helpful visit I made was to Senior Care Solutions, who were life savers. They are a referral group in Fair Oaks of caring and compassionate people who knew everything I needed to be doing and referred me to the best support people and services I found. I have known owners Carol and Dave Kinsel, and partner Ginger McMurchie for years. I had no idea the width and depth of their knowledge about what I should take care of, as it was new territory for me.  At our first meeting, which was free, Carol outlined the step by step plan for what I needed to attend to – from reviewing adult day care options, to visiting senior in-home care facilities, to talking to an account and senior attorney, right down to buying a bedside commode and door alarm. Love them. Carol adjusted my to-do list as my Dads needs changed. Priceless. Make them your first visit!

Financial planning. Before things progress too far, be sure they have their will or trust established. My parents had both, but it turns out they could have used a different type of trust. A visit to Senior Attorney Heather Chubb showed us how to access Veterans benefits that would have subsidized managed care for my dad in the end. I didn’t think they would qualify, but Heather taught me otherwise. Since Mom cared for him at home up til the end, we never went further than finding out about our options- but good to know about Heather. As it turns out, as the Veteran’s widow, my Mom is entitled to help if she needs it in the future. Wealth management, or lack of wealth management, is something you don’t want to ignore. Find out their options with a good Elder Care Attorney.

Advanced Health Directive and POLST form: These forms are filled out by your parents, then their doctor signs them. The Directive states the “do not resuscitate” type instructions , whether they want to be force fed, and whether they want liquids under specific circumstances. It is multi paged and very detailed. The POLST is a one page quickie directive for an emergency, since emergency techs will not be searching your parents file cabinets for the more detailed directive. Without the POLST, ER tech may be forced to take extreme measures neither you nor your parent wants. The POLST is usually hot pink and you stick it on your fridge. These are critical forms to have. For my 90 year old father, he was ready to go and simply quit eating and drinking. Following the POLST directive, Hospice helped guide us through the emotions of feeling guilty by not making him drink. Instead you offer, they told us. When he refused water, and spit out even the water spritz, we knew this was his chosen way to transition out of his used up body. He knew. We honored.

Hospice– This was a shocker, and it’s not what I thought. I had thought Hospice came in at the end and gave moral support through volunteers. It does that and more. If your parent is on Medicare, as mine was, and is in the last 6 months of a life-ending medical condition, Hospice can be ordered through their doctor. Hospice will manage their health care from home. That would have saved us an ambulance ride, two trips to ER and a 4 day hospital stay. When my Dad had his emergency, Hospice would have sent a nurse, and any other health professionals for diagnosis at home. Hospice also helped us with managing expectations in my Dad’s last week of life, as his body shut down. We felt so fortunate to be referred to Bristol Hospice, who sent warm and caring nurses, who were able to tell us how much longer he had, and advised us on how to make him most comfortable. After he died, they sent a nurse, instead of screaming sirens, the coroner, and other emergency personnel. The nurse quietly and compassionately pronounced my Dad dead, then took care of the details. She also advised us on how to get rid of his medications.

Palliative care– this is through your health plan and is designed for easing the health management during final stages of life. Kaisers department coordinated many services for us, including equipment and home services.

My dad's treasure chest for his cremation niche

Cremation services. We felt blessed to be referred to Simple Traditions

Cremations, a women-owned cremation service in Carmichael that handled my dad with such compassion. With a phone call at 9 at night, they sent two of the sweetest men to take my Dad.  They were so caring. Later in their office, I never felt I was being up-sold to buy satin-lined gizmos instead of the generic plastic we chose for my dad’s “cremains”.  I found my own antique Hershey’s Chocolate tin for my dad, to be included in a larger checkers game box which held mementos of his life – drum sticks, a model Mustang car, poker chips, cards, a “Love Songs from WWII” CD, pictures from his wallet, child’s baseball mitt, an ice cream scooper, and a copy of the birthday book of love letters we all made for his 90th birthday, only one week before. Simple Traditions also created the Certified copy of the Death Certificate, and arranged the burial permit from the County. I loved the rep we had, Irina, who very emotionally told me she couldn’t wait to come to work each day, helping families in such a loving environment.  She said it was hard to break into this field as a woman, and that Simple Traditions was a rarity. They were awesome, and I loved supporting a woman-owned business.

Cremation containers. You want to find out your size restrictions from the cemetery, as they all vary. I had to leave room for my Mom’s box to go into the same niche later – so it’s important to remember what size my Dad’s is! You will find wonderful containers at stores like Target, Home Goods, and Tuesday Morning, in addition to Antique stores, and handcrafted specialty shops. Be creative, and have fun!

Sacramento Valley Veterans Cemetery, Dixon, CA

CemeteriesFair Oaks Cemetery was my first choice with its local history, rural feel, and beautiful trees filtering the sunlight. I will be at that cemetery someday – hopefully not too soon. Their Veterans wall is beautiful, and would have honored my Dad with his name etched into the wall at no additional cost. Their niche would have cost about $3200.

Sacramento Valley Veterans Cemetery in Dixon is where we chose for my Dad. Who would have thought we have loved Dixon, but the cemetery there took our breath away with its beautiful planning and layout. Built in 2007, the trees are still young, but the long-range plan is beautiful. My dad is in a niche wall overlooking a lake with a fountain. My mom will be there someday too, with their names etched in white marble. It really felt right, and as a Veteran, it’s free for both of them.

After your loved one dies, you want to contact:

Social Security

DMV, if applicable

Veteran’s Administration, if they have been receiving benefits

Their bank

It is not easy to lose a parent, and is incredibly hard to managing their last days. You do not know what is going to happen or what course their progression is going to take.  But there truly are services out there to help you along the way. You just need to reach out and tap into the caring and compassion that is available.

A call to Senior Care Solutions is truly to best first call. If you have been through this, what else have you found helpful?

Free Resources


Heather was wonderful. She explained, in understandable terms, why it is important to establish an estate plan. I never realized what would happen, without a plan in place, and we could not bear the thought of our child in arms of absolute strangers while the court system sorted out his future.

As Seen On