From ‘Bureaucracy adds to the pain of bereavement’

  • Practical Matters
As my aunt died, heartless and clueless jobsworths meant more anguish for us next of kinEdward Lucas
From. “Bureaucracy adds to the pain of bereavement”Monday November 06 2023, 12.01am, The Times

……however good the paperwork, bureaucracy lets you down. Notifying officialdom of her death via the Tell Us Once service has worked seamlessly. While she was alive, communication faltered, lethally. A fall did for Sarah. She might have recovered with specialist rehabilitation. But the care home posed footling, tick-box questions, and by the time the answers came, she was (supposedly) too frail to be admitted.

The hospital that had discharged her, the overworked GP practice, the rule-bound tribes of watchers, wipers and feeders — all failed to work together. The county council’s “single point of access” phone line was reliably clueless. …..That left palliative care: good in theory, but in practice we struggled. The form for end-of-life support was 40 pages long. The NHS treats morphine like gelignite. Getting a repeat prescription for someone in terminal pain should be simple; it proved nerve-racking…

…..Later, I was incensed at the waste, in the supposedly cash-strapped NHS, of so much valuable medicine and other kit, all in its original packaging: no recycling, just incineration, the assistant at Boots told me, with lip-smacking satisfaction.

Reporting Sarah’s death umpteen times to charities and businesses, I was moved by those who behaved like human beings (thanks, NFU Insurance). The robotic indifference I met from others (NatWest, TalkTalk) prompts lasting ire…… those who yearn for gentle compassion will find it sorely wanting.

….Why are bereavement hotlines mostly closed in the evenings or at weekends? I can, at a pinch, spend my daytime hours listening to canned music, emailing scanned copies of documents and sorting out queries about dates of birth and postcodes. Most people have day jobs. Sarah bought a hefty life insurance policy to ease any cashflow worries for her executors. But Canada Life is disgracefully hard to reach.

Also big in our bad books is TSB, which in her last days repeatedly froze Sarah’s account because of “suspicious transactions”. ……..

Hot tip to the living: while you can, open a joint bank account with your executors. When you die, it will remain open. Any bank account in your name only is frozen on your death, creating a tiresome mess with direct debits and other transactions. Another tip: follow Sarah’s example and leave some money for your executors to make discretionary bequests. Murmuring instructions on your deathbed is easier than updating your will.

A deathwatch lesson for relatives: stick around, even when all hope seems lost. My happiest memory of this ghastly period is of ten lucid minutes when the real Sarah, capable and cantankerous, broke through the fog and started complaining about the fuss. “It’s the least I can do,” I gulped. “You’ve been my godmother for 61 years.” “Have I?” Her eyes glinted and she gripped my hand. “Bad luck you.” I followed up with a now-or-never question. “What about those boyfriends?” “I’m not talking about my private life,” she said in mock outrage. “But it’s mostly on the computer.” And she’s left us the password.

Read the Times here