WHO WANTS TO LIVE FOREVER? by Elizabeth Hutton
By GAtherton

Good old Freddie Mercury classic – ‘hitting the nail on the head’ brilliantly!  The one sure thing in life is that we’re all going to die – we’re all headed in the same direction – and yet it’s a subject most of us prefer not to think about or discuss.  Having faced imminent death ‘head on’ already anyway, I don’t have a problem with this at all – in fact, I’m probably better prepared due to my experience.  Nor do many other people, judging by the many advertisements for pre-paid funeral plans – it seems that many of us are now less ‘squeamish’ and being more practical.  Surely, it must be quite re-assuring to know that everything is in place and there is little for others to worry about, particularly financially.

Unfortunately, since my various diagnoses some eighteen months ago, this has been more to the forefront of my thoughts.  As I live alone, the main concern for me is that when it does happen, someone else will be left with the planning and arrangements.  Also, a consideration is that indications show that costs of funerals continue to rise at an alarming rate.

So, in an attempt to alleviate the above, I decided to start the process of planning for the eventuality – starting with comparing costs of pre-paid funeral plans on line, and received several brochures.  I did let two of those closest to me know that I would pass on details to them, once decisions had been taken (knowing that there would be quite a few decisions to be made!).  What’s all this about – ‘quality’ and ‘high quality’ coffins?  What does it matter?  When you’re gone, you’re gone – and they’re only either placed in the ground, or incinerated.  Not a bad business to be in, when you think about it – there’s always going to be the demand for services.

Whilst considering these, I recalled that when I was given the worst diagnosis, I had given serious consideration to a one-way ticket to Switzerland and now re-considered this, as there doesn’t appear to be a definite prognosis for ABPA.  At best, I guess I may just go on for X number of years as I am now – the worst scenario could be that it progresses to the chronic form – and then die!  The worry being the in-between chronic stage and dying – and the knowledge that many of the drugs do become fungal-resistant.  Happy days – not!  I then made some enquiries of Dignitas – which turns out to be another expensive ‘do’, but it’s important to know that there is this option if necessary.

I briefly outlined my dilemma to my close friend and colleague, Martin, saying – “What if I purchase a pre-paid Funeral Plan, only later to decide on an assisted suicide?”  He promptly replied that I could always raffle the Funeral Plan – it may cover the cost of the trip to Switzerland!

Decisions, decisions.  I must say that the whole process (whichever way) does seem a bit of a swindle!  Then I read an article on the ‘Moneywise’ website entitled ‘Death – the final rip-off’ – confirming my thoughts.  Interestingly, it mentions donating one’s body to research, therefore no costs involved – www.hta.gov.uk – (I have already made arrangements for my organs to be donated) – more ‘food for thought’!  It also makes mention of a chap who ‘haggled’ with the funeral directors over funerals for relatives and managed to achieve a 10% reduction – twice.    This I really like – it appeals to my love of bargaining and underlines to me that there must be a huge profit-margin here.  I don’t suppose many people would have thought of bargaining, as the funeral providers will be used to those who are perhaps in a fragile state, in shock, mourning, and with a massive ‘to do’ list, so are usually very compliant.

According to ‘Funeralzone’:

“The cost of a funeral varies depending on your location, the circumstance of the death and your requirements for the funeral. The average cost of a burial funeral is £4,136 and the average cost of a cremation funeral is £3,214 (according to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2016). This will, of course, vary depending on specific choices and circumstances.

These costs can be separated into three categories:

  • Funeral director fees
  • Third-party costs paid by the funeral director (for example the costs of cremation or burial, gravesites, transport, venue booking, ceremony costs)
  • Local authority fees”

I do like to keep a sense of perspective and to see things from all angles, so another alternative – I’d be quite happy (!) to be buried at the bottom of my beloved garden, but this may be just a tad off-putting to future prospective buyers!  Who knows – I may be spending my days abroad when the time comes, which could then scupper all plans?!

‘Oops, I did it again’ – sorry, Britney – couldn’t resist!

Ultimately for me, the strongest contender seems to be to make a ‘Living Will’ (see Living Will – Patients Association) for my ‘nearest and dearest’ outlining my wishes regarding such issues as resuscitation or otherwise, and when to ‘accidentally’ trip over and un-plug life-support.  Then, put aside an amount of money to cover costs of an inexpensive (but pretty!) funeral, less, at least 10% (!) and a much more generous amount for a good old ‘knees up’ / Wake.  Priorities are so important, don’t you think?

So, if I can set my mind to planning this, I can then ‘put it away’ and get on with the far more important matter of living!  The only other major item is my Will, followed by minimizing my wardrobe and sorting my knicker-drawer – then I’m good to go!

‘Always look on the bright side of life …  diddum, diddum, diddum, diddum, diddum …!’

One other concern is – God forbid – that I should at some point have to move to a care home.  Apart from being at the mercy of others, there is also the huge financial implication.  There is the option of setting up a Trust, in order to avoid ones’ home being sold to pay for fees, but Saga warns “Beware of any company or scheme that claims to protect your home or assets from being sold if you go into care by placing them in trust.  Local authorities are increasingly wise to these type of schemes, with teams in place to ensure residents are not using them to get out of paying rising care costs.”

I’d be very interested hear if anyone has any suggestions or advice (obviously, apart from ensuring, insofar as possible) that savings/assets will cover this?  How anyone can ensure they have sufficient funds to plan for this is beyond me – if only we knew how long we have left, it would certainly simplify the problems!  Who can afford to live forever?!

Currently, the only way for me (as with most everybody else) is to hope against hope that I’ll be able to continue happily in my own home, ‘With a little help from my friends’ – right to the end.