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Memorial contributions typically not disclosed

Q: When I make a memorial contribution in honor of a person who has died, per family request in the obituary, does the nonprofit receiving the money tell family members the amount of the contribution?

A: Usually not. If this is a big concern, though, call the nonprofit and ask its policy before writing the memorial check.

Nonprofits generally let family members know that the memorial was made in the deceased person’s honor, but they keep the amount undisclosed.


“Out of respect to all of our donors, because we don’t know their circumstances,” said Cliff Evans, executive director of Cancer Patient Care in Spokane.

“All we know is that they want to honor someone and cared enough to contribute to our cause. If a donor wants the family to know how much they gave, they can tell them.”

In obituaries throughout the country, organizations providing hospice care are often mentioned as suggested recipients of memorial donations.

Said Dale Hammond, director of development and communications for Hospice of Spokane: “We’ve talked with multiple hospices and they don’t disclose the (amount) of the gifts. People are able at different points in their life to give differing amounts.”

Nonprofits don’t usually disclose the amount, but they should always let family members know a donation was made in the deceased person’s honor. So, with your donation, be it $5 or $500, be sure to include the family’s address with a request the family be notified, if those are your wishes.

Flowers, sent by friends, relatives and co-workers of the deceased, were always the traditional and expected outward symbol of concern. About two decades ago, however, this phrase increasingly surfaced in obituaries: “In lieu of flowers, please send a memorial contribution to …”

The florist industry protested, primarily because it was bad for business.

At the “In Lieu of Flowers” website ( you can read some of the history of this campaign by the industry and also the suggested alternative obituary wording, such as: “Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to …”

The floral industry campaign also points out, legitimately, that flowers still serve an important function: They brighten up a somber funeral service. And commenting on floral arrangements gives people something to talk about during sometimes awkward memorial gatherings.

Remember that flowers and/or memorial donations are optional responses to a person’s death. Sending a card, or simply showing up at the memorial service, can be just as valuable and memorable.

Q: My mom had a lot of adaptive equipment that she used before she died including a walker, a cane and a raised toilet seat. And she has several prescribed medications. I don’t want to toss them away. Where can I donate them?

A: First, take care of all her prescription or over-the-counter medications. These drugs cannot be donated and could be a temptation to anyone who happens upon them.

Many teens believe the myth that prescription drugs such as Oxycontin used for pain provide a medically safe high. However, anyone who takes a drug that is not prescribed for them risks injury or even death.

In 2010, Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which seeks to reduce these risks by permitting individuals to deliver any unused medications to responsible state and private drug take-back programs.

Walgreens sells prepaid postage envelopes to consumers who want to mail in their unused prescriptions. Many law enforcement agencies have a designated day when they invite citizens to drop off their unused medications.

Call your own health care provider, who may direct you to local resources. Do not flush the medications down the toilet because our wastewater treatment plants cannot filter the drugs out. You can, however, mix the medications with coffee grounds or kitty litter and put that mixture in a sealed container, then into your trash.

You have many options for the adaptive equipment items to go to people who need them. Start with your mom’s friends. Is there anyone who may need a walker? Make no assumptions. Just call her friends and offer what items you have.

If they do not need the equipment, they may know someone who does. Contact area senior centers or churches and ask if they will publish information about your items in their newsletters or bulletins. Many faith communities have parish nurses who visit homebound parishioners.

Local thrift shops such as Goodwill or Salvation Army may accept the equipment, so call and inquire.

The equipment can make a difference across the globe, too. Many not-for-profit hospitals collect medical equipment and ship it to medical teams in developing countries. Call an area hospital to learn more.

Health care is expensive; adaptive equipment can be a lifeline. Your generosity will make a difference.

Catherine Johnston, a health care professional from Olympia, and Rebecca Nappi, Spokesman-Review features writer, welcome your questions about what to do in times of illness, dying, death and grief. Contact them through their EndNotes blog at  blogs/endnotes.

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