Uncomplicating the End of Life


Julia Orefice is all too familiar with the complications of caring for elderly parents. That’s why she attended the free “Don’t Be Caught Unprepared” Seminar on Thursday at Covenant Village of the Great Lakes (CVGL). More than 50 community members turned out for the event—the fourth of its kind to be sponsored by Heritage Life Story Funeral Home—to hear experts discuss the essentials of end-of-life planning.

“We wanted some answers so that my husband and I can develop our own plan,” Julia explained. The couple has faced numerous problems with the care of their elderly parents resulting primarily from misinformation. “I don’t want our kids to have to deal with the mess we’re dealing with,” she added.

At Heritage, we regularly communicate with CVGL residents and their families. Our hope is to provide them and the greater West Michigan community with the best resources to make informed end-of-life decisions. If we don’t have the answers, we bring in the people who do.

Speakers from CVGL, Heritage, Emmanuel Hospice, the Alzheimer’s Association and Covenant Trust (a legacy planning and financial management firm) talked with guests over lunch about the positive difference planning for the end of life can make. “In 30 years of service to this community, I have learned that the families who do pre-planning face far less complication in the days following the death of their loved one,” Life Story Advanced Planning Counselor Rich Karelse told the crowd.

These are often difficult topics to address—When is it time to call hospice? What is the best way to care for a patient with dementia? When is the right time to move to an independent-living community? To assisted living? To skilled nursing? How do you pre-plan a funeral? Why would you? What about end-of-life finances? How much does care cost? Who covers it?

All of us will face these issues, the only question is, will we be prepared for them when they arrive? We want to create a safe place for families to have these difficult conversations. That’s what this seminar is all about.

A special thank you to our presenters: Jan Amato of Emmanuel Hospice, Jo Elenbaas of CVGL, Denise Gibson of the Alzheimer’s Association, Rich Karelse of Heritage Life Story and Daniel Melgren of Covenant Trust.

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