New York Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice and Palliative Care in New York is a subject that can raise a  lot of questions and anxiety,  largely because they are so widely misunderstood. This fantastic article explains the differences between hospice and palliative care in New York and beyond. I worked with hospice and palliative care workers extensively, both as a funeral director and as a volunteer at  Francis House when I was studying for my grief counseling degree. I even interviewed a woman who was both  a midwife and a hospice nurse. By far, one of the biggest sources of frustration I found among those in hospice is that patients and their families wait too long to get hospice involved. There are myriad things hospice and palliative care nurses in New York can do, all of which are aimed at helping the patient live better and more fully in the time they have.  Frequently that includes unique forms of pain management so patients remain as lucid as possible, and sometimes it involves intense therapy, spiritual guidance and antidepressants so patients  can effectively deal with their emotions.  However, when hospice and palliative care is not called in until the last minute, frequently only a few days before the death, there simply isn’t enough time for them to do the many wonderful things for families that they can do. The palliative care portion of hospice and palliative care is frequently misunderstood- it’s simply finding ways to make the patient comfortable, regardless of whether they are dying or not. And yes, medicaid does help cover the cost of hospice and palliative care in New York. Many people who...

PrePaid Funerals: Protecting Your Funds

The FBI recently announced convictions of the top officers of National Prearranged Services. The company worked in 19 states, helping people put money for their funerals aside in trusts and insurance policies, and also purchasing prepaid trusts from funeral homes who needed liquidity, and purchasing life insurance policies instead. What the 92,000 victims didn’t know, was NPS officials invested those funds in risky investments, changed the beneficiaries of the insurance policies to themselves, and just plain kept the money for themselves. Victims included individuals, funeral homes, and insurance companies.  After admitting to the $450 million fraud, the company’s founder was sentenced to 115 months in prison, his son got 60 months.  In total, the six people indicted were sentenced to 46 years in prison. So why would you want to pay for a funeral in advance when scams like this seem so rampant? Fortunately, NY is the most regulated state in the nation with regard to funding in advance. By law, all prepaid funeral funds must be placed in an interest-bearing, FDIC backed- account, for which the planner is the sole beneficiary. The only way a funeral home or funeral director can touch those funds is with a death certificate in hand. Most New York Funeral homes use PrePlan, a non-profit master trust backed by the New York State Funeral Directors Association. All funds and interest remain the property of the planner, but by managing so many trusts, they tend to earn a higher interest return.  It has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and since the funds are always yours, you can move or remove* them at any time....

Funeral Ettiquette and The Mistress

In a recent column of The Ethicist in the New York Times, a reader posed a difficult question: A dying friend asked a man to ensure his mistress was able to attend his funeral, against the wishes of the man’s wife. What to do?  And what should you do when the people who are arguably closer to the person dying, and who know him or her better, are not the ones entitled to make final arrangements? Thanks to a little-known NY State Law,  anyone can appoint an agent to control the disposition of their remains.  This form doesn’t need to be witnessed or even filed with a clerk, and can be revised as often as desired. When first made law, it was intended to help protect gay couples who were being kept from making such decisions or even attending the funerals of their loved ones.  However, in practice, it has had much larger implications: a man can appoint his mistress over his wife, a mother can appoint one child and not the others.  The only area that it gives that person control is in the final disposition- so it doesn’t make you executor of a the will or the controller of the bank accounts. But it can help people ensure their final wishes are carried out in the manner they desire As for the Ethicist- I agree with the writer. If the mistress’ presence will upset the family, she should keep her distance. The funeral is for the family, and they deserve to mourn without distraction....

Funeral Home Price Lists

Did you know funeral homes are required by law  to present you with a General Price List (GPL), Casket Price List (CPL), and Outer Burial Container Price List (OBCPL) whenever they are asked for, and before discussion of any services, goods, or prices takes place? This is a federal law. In fact, the law even dictates how the price lists are structured, mandates certain disclosures, and mandates where on the price list the disclosures must be placed. Funeral homes are not required to mail price lists to people who inquire by phone, but they are required to disclose prices by phone and provide price  lists when such inquiries are in person, regardless of whether or not the person inquiring has lost a loved one, is a competitor, a journalist, or otherwise. Many funeral homes do mail their price lists upon request, and many even wisely publish their price lists on their websites. And when they don’t, they can get in a heap of trouble. A Westchester County funeral home learned this the hard way: John Balsamo, the owner of the Harrison Funeral Home was fined $32,000 and subject to two decades of increased mandated reporting as part of settlement of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Attorney after they found repeated violations. The U.S. Attorney said the firm was first warned in 2001 that federal authorities knew they were not complying with the FTC Funeral Rule. However, undercover investigators were not given the price lists in four separate incidents in 2010. In a consent decree, the firm admitted to also failing to enroll employees in educational programs intended to prevent such violations.  John Balsamo owns...