Helpful Links

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Social Security and VA BenefitsSocial Security Benefits

$255 Lump Sum Death Benefbe insured under Social Security.  This payment can be made to: 

The surviving spouse, if living with the deceased or, if living apart was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased person's record, or...

If there is no surviving spouse, a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased person's record on the month of death. 

If there isn't a spouse or child meeting these requirements, then the lump-sum benefit is not paid.  The lump sum benefit cannot be paid to a funeral home, cemetery, or estate.

After you have completed the arrangements with us, we complete and fax form SSA-721, "Statement of Death by Funeral Director," directly to Social Security as well as entering the information into Missouri's electronic death registration system.  This system electronically notifies SSA of the death.  Generally, this is sufficient so you do not have to provide a certified copy of the death certificate to Social Security.

Click here for the Lump Sum Death Benefit information page from Social Security.

Survivors Benefits

Social Security survivors benefits help ease the financial burden that follows a worker's death. Almost all children under age 18 will get monthly benefits if a working parent dies. Other family members may be eligible for benefits, too.  Anyone who has worked and paid Social Security (FICA) taxes has been earning Social Security benefits for his or her family. The amount of work needed to pay survivors benefits depends on the worker's age at the time of death. It may be as little as 1-1/2 years for a young worker. No one needs more than 10 years.

Here is a list of family members who usually can get benefits:

• Widows and widowers age 60 or older.
• Widows and widowers at any age if caring for the deceased's child(ren) who are under age 16 or disabled.
• Divorced wives and husbands age 60 or older, if married to the deceased 10 years or more.
• Widows, widowers, divorced wives, and divorced husbands age 50 or older, if they are disabled.
• Children up to age 18.
• Children age 18 - 19, if they attend elementary school or high school full time.
• Children over age 18, if they became disabled before age 22.
• The deceased worker's parents age 62 or older, if they were being supported by the worker.

Applying for Benefits

If you're already getting benefits as a wife or husband on your spouse's record when he or she dies, in many situations Social Security can change your payments to survivors benefits once you report the death to them. Benefits for any children will also automatically be changed to survivors benefits after the death is reported to Social Security.

This publication from Social Security may be helpful.

For More Information

For more information, write or visit any Social Security office, or phone the toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. You can speak to a representative weekdays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can also visit Social Security's Internet website: www.socialsecurity.gov.

Here are two Social Security Offices in our area:

Social Security Administration
650 Gravois Bluffs Blvd.
Fenton, MO 63026    
Google Map
Mon.-Fri. 9am - 4 pm

Social Security Administration

1215 Fern Ridge Parkway #100
Creve Coeur, MO 63141
Google Map
Mon.-Fri. 9am - 4 pm




  ***********************************************************************************************************************************************Caring for Seniors with                                                                                                               Autism

When we hear about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we often think about small children and the challenges they will need to face throughout their lives, but most often than not we forget that these children will grow up and turn into young adults and then seniors.

Although autism can’t be cured, there are many approaches that you, as a caregiver - whether you are a beloved family member or a paid professional - can make to facilitate the life of an elderly that has been diagnosed with ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed at any stage in life, however, when it is rather later than earlier, it can be a little more challenging - but not impossible - to adjust. If diagnosed at a later stage in life, usually, a series of changes in the daily routine and care needs to be made.

If the diagnosis was made in the early years, this is something that you will be more accustomed to and dealing with a senior with Autism could be a little less changeling for the family.

We must all agree that one of the most important aspects of our existence is having a good quality of life, and so, with that in mind, here are some great tips on how to take care of seniors with ASD.



Keeping a daily routine

In general, individuals with ASD need a healthy daily routine. These simple everyday tasks will be extremely powerful as they will reinforce a feeling of happiness, stability and overall well-being. When these feelings are surfaced and experienced, it will be much easier for them to accept and handle other changes when needed.

A great proactive plan is to sit down and make a morning schedule or a to-do list with the ASD senior. The routine must be straightforward and easy to follow. Some examples can include healthy meal times, short walks - if possible, an art class, medication at a specific time of the day, attending a support group, quality family time.

Also, keep in mind that a hygiene routine should be included. Reminding the senior with ASD of the good points of their appearance can be a good way of encouraging healthy hygiene habits.

A safe environment for everyone

It is imperative to ensure that the environment is prepared according to the difficulties of each individual.

For example, if the elderly person has difficulty moving around, it is essential to avoid slippery rugs, floors and cluttered spaces. Another idea is to install bars around so they can walk freely when needed.

Sociability is a must

To improve the individual's quality of life diagnosed with Autism, a key element is social interaction.

Whenever possible, seniors should attend a support group. Support groups can be a great place for them to identify with other people that face the same everyday challenges.

Always go slow and see how they feel - they don’t like being pushed too hard into doing something they are not 100% comfortable with and sure about. A good idea is to start nice and easy, with an easy topic and then add someone else into the conversation.

Since social interaction can be harder for seniors with ASD, support groups could be added to the routine.

Family support can be life-changing

To ensure good self-esteem and results in individuals with autism in older stages in life, it is important to have a good, caring and healthy family environment.

Although it is not always easy to deal with elderly and autistic patients, the family is one of the most important roles in this process.

Be kind to their sensitivities

People with autism are far more sensible as their senses are sharper than normal. Music and general noises will sound louder in their ears, lights can appear much brighter for them and smells can feel stronger.

With this in mind, try to find out which one of these senses can be a trigger and work towards minimizing it. A lower TV and radio can be more accommodating while dimming the light or using side lamps can do the trick for avoiding distractions and stress.

Watch out for the non-spoken language

Autism affects the way people communicate, especially seniors, so you will need to be extra sensitive when it comes to understanding what they need and figure out what is going on with them.

Simple questions such as “How are you feeling?” should be avoided and replaced with more specific questions such as “Are you happy/sad today?” “Are you feeling leg cramps or stiff joints?” Specific questions are more prompted to result in clear replies.

Some ASD seniors may panic one day when they realize that they have lost their hearing or can no longer see, so all eyes should be on them to understand the unspoken words of what is happening.

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Consider Making These Plans After a Terminal Diagnosis

Coping with a terminal illness can be stressful and frustrating, whether you’re dealing with it personally or are trying to help a loved one who has just been diagnosed. There are lots of arrangements to make and considerations to think about, and the process can be overwhelming. However, it can also be helpful to start making plans for the coming months, because it allows you to feel a sense of control over things. Valhalla Funeral Chapel has lots of resources for this very reason, including a checklist of all the things you might need to pre-plan a service. When you’re ready to think about making arrangements, here are a few ideas on where to begin.

Consider accessibility needs

If you or your loved one will need changes to the home for accessibility or upgrades for the sake of comfort, you might want to think about refinancing your mortgage in order to free up some cash. There are several options available, including a cash-out refinance that allows you to obtain a new loan with a higher balance so you can keep the amount between it and your old loan. You will more than likely be able to get a better rate with this type of refinancing, and there are tax advantages as well. While these numbers will vary depending on the type of loan you have, you can check to see what the best cash out refinance rates are at the moment and begin planning ahead.

Figure out the financials

Living with a terminal illness can be costly even outside of making changes to the home. Some treatments and medications aren’t covered by insurance and can easily rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills, so it’s a good idea to think about how you or your loved one can keep up with those bills and reduce them, if possible. Talk to your doctors about your concerns, since this will allow them to create a treatment plan with cost in mind. Look online for resources that can help with funding, and don’t forget to look into payment plans and budgeting ideas for other bills in order to free up funds.

Prepare for the family

While it’s important to think about how to pay bills during this time, it’s also crucial to consider long-term finances and planning. Will you be leaving an endowment to family members? Do you already have a living will or advance directive written out that includes your wishes for final arrangements? It can be difficult to create these types of documents, but doing so will give you peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care of and that your wishes will be carried out. This can be a challenging part of the process for your mental health, so you’ll want to have a support system to lean on during this time, whether it’s from friends and family members or from an online resource.

Make arrangements for care

Many individuals who are diagnosed with a terminal illness spend quite a bit of time preparing for others, so it’s important not to forget about arrangements for yourself or your loved one. There may come a day when it becomes difficult or impossible to remain comfortably at home, so hospice care might be necessary. Talk to the caregivers about the benefits of palliative care, which involves making comfort a priority in order to provide some quality of life.

While it’s understandably difficult to think about making these kinds of plans, doing so can help to reduce stress during an uncertain time. Look for support and resources online to help you and your loved ones as you navigate the emotional, physical, and financial challenges that come with making final arrangements.

Contact Valhalla Funeral Chapel today to find out more about their services or to start making arrangements for yourself or a loved one.

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                                                                                            GRIEF

Grief manifests in many different ways in the wake of a significant loss, and the healing process will be unique to each individual. Learn useful ways to begin healing from the unexpected loss of a loved one and how to effectively manage grief.

Dealing With Grief: A Step-By-Step Guide For Emotional Healing After The Unexpected Death Of A Loved One

Death is a natural part of life that is expected in due time and ultimately unavoidable. The immediate thoughts and feelings we have in the wake of a death, however, may be different depending on our relationship to the person we have lost and the circumstances under which they died.

While people who have very elderly or sickly loved ones may have time to prepare for an impending loss, death that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly can be a significant shock. Suffering the unexpected loss of a loved one can present unique challenges to a person’s healing process and cause an overwhelming amount of grief.

The unexpected death of a loved one can occur in many different ways—leaving friends, family members, spouses, children, and others left to process the emotional aftermath.

If you’ve suffered the unexpected loss of a loved one due to an act of violence, an accident or other type of unexpected incident, here are some ways to begin emotional healing after your loss. Learn what grief looks like after the unexpected loss of a loved one, healthy ways for processing grief, and constructive ways you may handle the aftermath of the accident that caused your loved one’s untimely passing.

How To Process The Grief Of An Unexpected Death

Grieving the death of a loved one is painful regardless of whether it was expected. But losing the opportunity to prepare for this type of loss or say goodbye to a loved one can pose additional challenges.

If you’ve lost a friend, child, parent, partner, or other significant person in your life as a result of an unexpected injury, you may be grappling with a wide range of emotions.

When it comes to the grieving process, there is no singular or correct way to cope with loss.

The most important steps you can take to help yourself heal involve:

  • treating yourself with compassion
  • seeking support
  • gradually discovering what your healing process needs to look like for you
Ways To Heal From The Loss Of A Loved One

Grieving the loss of a loved one, and healing from that loss, is a process that looks different for everyone. There is no timeline for how long it takes to process this type of loss.

If you’ve lost a loved one unexpectedly due to disease, an accident, or act of violence—here are some steps you can take to begin your process of emotional healing:

1. Reach Out For Support

No one should be left to feel as though they should or need to grieve the loss of life alone. Feelings of depression, anger, low mood, and shame can be common emotions felt during the grieving process.

These emotions can make many people feel vulnerable and maybe even embarrassed to be in such a state around others, causing people to avoid others and retreat within themselves. Others may feel urged to isolate from others whom they feel won’t be able to understand their loss, or wish to avoid the exhaustion of simply being around or interacting with other people.

Needing some time to collect and process your thoughts in your own space and time is valid. However, it is important to be able to surround yourself with others who can support you, physically or emotionally, during this time.

Reach out to people who feel safe to you. Whether that’s others who have also been touched by this loss, or seeking the comfort of family members or friends who can hold you, talk to you, or simply be in a space with you as you navigate this loss.

2. Take Care Of Your Needs

Tending to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs during a time of grief is essential. Grief can take its toll on both the mind and body, causing fatigue, sleeplessness, and changes in appetite, among other physical signs of loss.

Although we tend to think of the mind and body as separate, when it comes to grief, the reality is that the two are inextricably connected, requiring that both are attended to with similar weight and compassion for holistic—or ‘whole-self’—healing.

Attend to your most basic needs, such as drinking enough water, eating a balanced diet, and simple tasks such as taking a shower. This can be incredibly important to keeping yourself well and preventing harm to yourself as you process your loss.

You might also find it helpful to try restorative activities such as meditation, yoga, taking a walk, or looking internally to your faith. Many people may find themselves experiencing a disconnect with their faith or spirituality in the aftermath of an unexpected loss, which can create even stronger feelings of loneliness or uncertainty.

Even if it doesn’t feel particularly good or helpful to ensure you’re staying hydrated or getting enough rest, caring for your most vital needs are some of the best ways in which you can show yourself compassion during this time.

3. Give Yourself Time And Permission To Process Your Grief

One of the most important parts of the grieving and healing processes is acceptance. Accept that the wide range of emotions you may feel throughout this process—from shock, to sadness, anger, and hopelessness—are valid.

Accept that you may not be in a mental space to return to your usual routine as normal, and it’s okay to adapt your activities according to what you’re needing emotionally and socially at this time. Give yourself permission to grieve, to be at a loss for words, to cry, to scream, and to feel happiness when it arises.

Grief is commonly discussed as happening in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, the grieving process is not always linear, and your grief might not look like someone else’s grief.

If you skip over one of these stages, or return to a stage of anger after a period of depression, this does not mean you’re moving backwards. Reactions to loss can vary and may be influenced by a variety of personal and environmental factors.

4. Consider Seeking Professional Help

Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and others who bring you comfort is important in the wake of loss. However, there are some aspects of grief and healing that may be best explored with a professional grief counselor.

A professional grief counselor may be able to offer new perspectives and insight for individuals who feel lost, confused, or are suffering psychological troubles such as depression or trauma flashbacks after loss.

A counselor may also be able to offer guidance on finding healthy ways to cope with certain thoughts, feelings, or other hardships that are troubling you as a result of your loss.

5. Find Outlets For Meaning And Expression

Dealing with grief and embarking on your process towards healing can be the most challenging experience of your life—and it can also be a time for self-reflection. In recognition of this, some models depicting the basic stages of grief have begun including a sixth stage—finding meaning.

Finding meaning can be defined according to whatever feels most true to your needs and your experience. This can mean finding meaning from your loss, or finding outlets for expression or activities that give you a sense of purpose as you consider your future without your loved one.

For many, the healing process can be a time for exploration, experimentation, and an opportunity to truly reconnect with your own personal values.

These are concepts that can be explored with a counselor, with loved ones, or on your own through activities such as:

  • journaling
  • art
  • music
  • volunteering
  • travel
6. Determine What Your Healing Process Needs To Look Like For You

Everyone has their own needs when it comes to what they need to heal from a major loss. The healing process of a parent who has lost their child may not look the same as that of a sibling who has lost her sister. Even couples may not grieve the loss of their child in the same way.

People can need more or less time to grieve, benefit from different coping strategies, and may have different ideas about what steps they feel they need to take to fully grieve their loss.

For instance, under circumstances where a loved one’s death has occurred suddenly and violently due to an accident or act of violence, seeking justice for this loss may be identified as an important part of a person’s healing.

List of Common Reasons People Pass Away Suddenly

Unexpected death is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. This is why it’s helpful to understand both ways you may be able to deal with grief after an unexpected loss and what options you may have for recourse if your loved one died in an accident or incident which could have been prevented.

In the United States, the three leading causes of death in humans are heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries.

Although most individuals who have conditions such as heart disease and cancer are generally aware of their risk for a reduced lifespan, those who die due to unintentional—or unexpected—injuries are not. And neither are the people they leave behind in the aftermath of a fatal injury or accident.

Some of the most common ways people die unexpectedly include:

Suicide

Thousands of people in the United States die by suicide each year, leaving suicide survivors—those who care deeply about the deceased—to grapple with the emotional aftermath of their loss.

While the assumption is that most people who die by suicide are outwardly depressed or suicidal, this is not the case for everyone. Many people who are suicidal will try to hide the extent to which they feel depressed, lost, or trapped within themselves from their loved ones by deflecting or pretending they’re fine on the surface.

Suicide can also be circumstantial, with some people feeling driven to suicide as a result of significant trauma, symptoms of mental illness, or a loss of their own.The risk factors for suicide vary across different cultural contexts, age groups, and other identifying characteristics.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is a term that refers to the negligent action or inaction of a medical professional that violates medical standards of care and results in patient injury.

According to a 2016 study out of Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the cause of an estimated 251,000 U.S. deaths each year. This exceeds the number of deaths caused by conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

Common causes of medical malpractice-related deaths include:

  • missing, delayed, or wrong diagnosis
  • surgical errors
  • defective medical devices
  • pharmaceutical errors
  • anesthesia errors
  • failure to properly address pregnancy complications
  • neglecting vital signs
  • neglecting patient history

The fatal effects of a medical error, or instance of medical malpractice, may be sudden, or occur days, weeks, or even months after the instance of mistreatment occurred.

Loss Of A Newborn

Infant mortality is a significant tragedy that impacts a startling number of parents in the United States each year, largely as a result of pregnancy and birthing complications.

Losing a newborn due to birth injury or other disease that develops in the early stages of life can be a traumatic loss for parents, especially when the death is sudden and unexpected. The most common causes of death in infants include deaths due to birth defects, injuries (e.g. suffocation), maternal pregnancy complications, sudden infant death syndrome, and preterm birth.

Drug And Alcohol Overdose

Substance abuse and addiction are a significant health problem in the United States, contributing to tens of thousands of overdose deaths each year. In recent years, the majority of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have involved opioids such as fentanyl, OxyContin, and hydrocodone.

The opioid epidemic has taken a tragic toll on the lives of millions of Americans, particularly in rural America where access to opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment and affordable medical care is scarce and lacking.

In addition, many overdose deaths involve the use of multiple drugs or substances, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, methamphetamine (meth), and the illicit opiate heroin.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Carmotorcycle, and large truck accidents claim the lives of over 38,000 people per year in the United States, leaving millions more injured.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that many motor vehicle accidents involve the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving at excessive speeds, and failure to follow traffic laws, which can have costly and life-threatening consequences for all motorists involved. Behaviors such as texting and driving have also been associated with a large number of motor vehicle deaths.

Workplace Accidents

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 5,250 fatal work injuries suffered in 2018—a slight increase from the year prior.

Workers in industries such as construction, agriculture, machinery, and agriculture experience some of the highest rates of workplace accidents and deaths, leaving partners, children, and other loved ones to grieve this loss in the wake.

The majority of fatal workplace injuries in the United States occur due to falls, vehicle accidents, violence by other injuries or persons, and exposure to harmful substances such as harsh chemicals, and the non-medical use of drugs and alcohol.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires, typhoons, and other storms can have devastating consequences to individuals and affected communities, often leaving the loss of more than life in their wake.

In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one may often be even further compounded by property loss, injury, and broader effects within the local community and economy.

Unexpected Death Due To COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Over the course of January to April 2020, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has claimed the lives of over 56,000 individuals in the United States alone—more than any other country worldwide.

One of the most troubling aspects of COVID-19 related deaths is just how suddenly and monumentally the pandemic has radically hit the nation, leaving the country on unstable grounds economically, and causing an immeasurable level of grief for individuals who have lost their loved ones due to complications of the life-threatening disease.

As the globe continues to experience devastation from the coronavirus, surviving loved ones may be grappling to identify their emotional needs and access the support they need to cope with their sudden and unexpected loss.

The Difference Between Unexpected Death, Accidental Death, And Wrongful Death

There are different terms when it comes to unexpected deaths, and knowing the difference can help grieving loved ones compartmentalize what happened. This in turn will help them process grief and, perhaps, guide them in how to move forward.

Accidental deaths are a form of unexpected death that occurs due to accidental causes, such as a car accident, motorcycle accident, fire, or other event that was not considered death by natural causes. While accidental deaths are always devastating, they may have been either preventable or truly accidental.

Preventable accidental deaths can also be called wrongful deaths, meaning the death was caused due to another person’s or party’s carelessness, negligence, or failure to act. Wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to an incident that could have been avoided, such as a drunk driver crossing the center line and killing the person in the opposing car.

As frustrating as it may be, accidental deaths may be no one’s fault. In this case, processing grief will be focused (at least in part) on accepting this fact. Wrongful deaths include a responsible party, and healing from grief in the case of a wrongful death could mean bringing that party to justice.

How To Begin Emotionally Healing After A Loved One Dies Unexpectedly

If you’ve just lost your loved one, you’re likely overwhelmed, both with emotions and grief and with not knowing how to cope with what you’re feeling. The best thing you can do first is give yourself grace.

Be gentle with yourself and others affected by this loss as you each come to terms with the loss and begin to handle your grief. Since emotional healing is not a one-size-fits-all process, it’s best to understand that you will have both good and bad days as you adjust to life without your loved one, and that this is both acceptable and expected.

When you are ready, reach out for support. But before you do, know that doing things as simple as maintaining conversations with others, especially those not affected, can be emotionally draining after such a loss. Give yourself time to adjust, and focus solely on your most bare, basic needs until you are ready to handle more.

Most importantly, confront your grief, find ways to express it, and find healthy outlets for managing it. When the time is right and as you regain your emotional strength, you may be ready to pursue justice, deal with life decisions, and take on your own life goals again. Until that time, find ways to honor your loved one by taking care of yourself, those closest to you, and allowing yourself the space and resources necessary to heal.