What practical information should I know?

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Compassionate care benefits; government benefits after death; important documents and questions checklist; local information; glossary of terms.

Senior woman talking with her doctor.

Compassionate care benefits

You may be eligible to receive Employment Insurance (EI) compassionate care benefits if you are absent from work to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member at risk of dying within a number of weeks. If you are self-employed, you may apply for special EI benefits if you are registered for access to the EI program.

The Government of Canada has announced a new EI program, the Family Caregiver benefit for adults. Starting December 3, 2017, eligible caregivers may take up to 15 weeks off work to care for or support an adult family member who is critically ill or injured. For more information, visit the Government web page on the Family Caregiver benefit.

For more information about compassionate care benefits, you may contact the EI Telephone Information Service at 1-800-206-7218 or refer to Service Canada – Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits.

Government benefits after death

When your parent, spouse or common-law partner dies, you may be eligible for certain government benefits:

  • Allowance for the Survivor provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to widowed spouses with a low income who are not yet eligible for the Old Age Security pension.
  • Death benefit provides a one-time payment to (or on behalf of) the estate of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
  • Survivor’s pension offers a monthly pension paid to the spouse or common-law partner of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
  • Children’s benefit provides a monthly benefit for dependent children (under age 18, or between 18 and 25 and attending school) of a deceased Canada Pension Plan contributor.
  • The Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada – Decedent Estates Program manages the estate of a deceased First Nation individual who lived on a reserve before their death.
  • International benefits provide survivor benefits to eligible individuals who have lived or worked in another country.

For more information about government benefits after a death please see Service Canada – Benefits After A Death.

Important documents and questions checklist

Handling the administrative tasks after a death can seem overwhelming, but the following checklist and list of questions can help.

Print this page and use it as a checklist to make sure that you have all of the documents that you need:

Also consider the following important questions:

  • Were the funeral arrangements already made? If so, where is the documentation? If not, contact your local funeral home to discuss the next steps.
  • Did the person express any specific wishes about their funeral? If not, think about how the person would want their death marked and their life celebrated.
  • Do I need a burial permit in my province? Is there a specific process for this? Consult the Canadian Consumer Handbook to find funeral service regulators for your province.
  • Did the person have a will? Where is this document? If the person does not have a will or substitute decision-maker, you may need to speak to a lawyer or consult the Public Guardian and Trustee about next steps.
  • Has the person been receiving government pension and benefits? Be sure to notify the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of the death by phone at 1-800-959-8281 or online.
  • Do I quality for government benefits? For more information about government benefits after a death, please see our pages on Compassionate care benefits and Government benefits after death.
  • Do I need to file a tax return for someone who has died? Consult the Canada Revenue Agency page: What to do when someone has died.
  • Is there anyone else I need to notify about the death outside of friends and family? Was the person a member of a social club, faith group, or organization such as the Alzheimer Society? Were they receiving community services such as Meals on Wheels? If so, contact these organizations.
  • What should I do with the person’s belongings and other items not covered in the will? Consider giving them away to close friends and family who will appreciate the items, or donate them to local charities.

Local information

For information on end-of-life care specific to your province or territory, visit your provincial Alzheimer Society's website:

*For Nunavut & Yukon please contact the provincial Alzheimer Society closest to you.

Glossary

Advance care planning: The process of planning for a person’s future health-care where the person has conversations with close family and friends about their values and beliefs.

Advance health directive: A set of documents containing instructions that consent to, or refuse, specified medical treatments and that states the care and lifestyle preferences in anticipating possible future circumstances.

Aggressive medical care: Intensive medical treatment designed to preserve and prolong life.

Ambiguous loss: The type of loss you feel when a person with dementia is physically here, but may not be mentally or emotionally present in the same way as before.

Antibiotics: Medication used to treat bacterial infections.

Artificial / Intravenous hydration: Liquid administered to a person through a needle in a vein in the person’s hand or another part of the body.

Bereavement services: Services provided to anyone who has experienced a loss, including the process of healing from the loss.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): An emergency lifesaving procedure that is done when someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.

Care or support of a family member: Means that you provide psychological or emotional support; or arrange care by a third party; or directly provide or participate in the care.

Comorbidity: When two or more chronic conditions exist at the same time.

Compassionate care benefits: Benefits paid to people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) / Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR): A legal order to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in respect of the person's wishes.

Emergency hospitalization: When a person is admitted to a hospital without warning.

End of life: Stage of life where a person is living with and impaired by a condition.

Family: Includes anyone in the supportive network of the person with dementia.

Feeding tube: A medical device used to provide nutrition to a person who has a difficult time eating or swallowing.

Funeral director: Also known as a mortician or undertaker, a funeral director is a professional responsible for performing funeral rites. This person often performs the embalming and burial or cremation of the dead, as well as the planning and arrangement of the actual funeral ceremony.

Geriatrician: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in older people and the problems specific to aging.

Health-care team: A team of medical professionals that often includes a physician, nurse, pharmacist, clinical nutritionist, social worker and other support staff.

Hospice: A comprehensive service provided to people living with and dying from a fatal condition. This may include medical care, respite care and end-of-life care for people who are unable to die at home.

Living will: A legal document detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in the event that they become incapable of communicating their wishes on their own.

Medical intervention: Treatment undertaken to improve health or help with a particular problem.

Opioids: Medications that relieve pain.

Palliative approach: An approach to care that aims to improve the quality of life of individuals and families facing a terminal illness, through prevention and relief of suffering. This involves early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psycho-social and spiritual problems.

Palliative / Comfort care: A type of health care for patients and families facing life-threatening illness. Palliative care helps patients to achieve the best possible quality of life right up until the end of life. Palliative care is also called end-of-life, or comfort care (Canadian Virtual Hospice).

Person-centred care: A philosophy that recognizes that individuals have unique values, personal history and personality and that each person has an equal right to dignity, respect, and to participate fully in their environment.

Psychological family: People you naturally turn to in times of crisis and celebration; the people in your life who are there for you in good times and bad.

Substitute decision-maker: A person who makes medical decisions and provides consent for treatment or withdrawal of treatment on behalf of another person who is incapable of communicating their wishes on their own.

Transfers to the hospital: Moving a person from home or a long-term care home to the hospital by ambulance.

Ventilator: A machine used to assist with breathing if a person cannot breathe independently.

What decisions will I need to make?

The importance of planning ahead; advance care planning; tips for talking about end of life; appointing substitute decision-maker(s); medical care decisions; brain donation and/or autopsy; funeral/memorial arrangements.

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End-of-life care

The needs of people with dementia at the end of life are unique and require special considerations. This section can help you prepare for end of life, make some of the difficult decisions you may face, and cope with the grief and loss you might experience.

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