As the weeks pass by under our “new normal”, OGR members continue to share with one another best practices, questions and support. During OGR’s weekly online round table, members discuss challenges and relevant tips for handling the coronavirus. A summary of last week’s discussion is below.
- Upset families: Serving families that are upset that they cannot hold the right of Christian burial, which is part of the Catholic sacraments.
- Spreading of Misinformation: Hospitals and hospice misinforming families by telling them that they MUST cremate if their loved ones died from coronavirus.
- Technological Challenges: Funeral directors who are not technologically savvy and who do not understand the electronic signing of legal documents and so have a hard time explaining it to families.
- Death certificate issues: Difficulty in getting signatures on death certificates since some doctors or EMs are reluctant to sign as cause of death is not always known. Later if they find out that it is a coronavirus death, they will retroactively change the cause of death on the death certificate.
- Privacy Concerns: People uploading photos to funeral home’s website and those who are in the photos with the deceased are upset that their photo has been posted without permission.
Positive Changes that Have Occurred
- Improvement in staff communication: Staff is communicating more internally about what is happening at the funeral home, staffing challenges and tasks that must be taken care of.
- Funeral homes as a community resource: The public is looking at funeral home websites more to get information.
- Raised awareness through social media: Social media content is being viewed and shared more often on funeral home pages.
- Increase in use of technology by staff: Technology is being embraced by the staff, such as remote arrangement conferences and streaming funeral services.
- Raised awareness through local media outlets: Local news media is beginning to run stories on funeral homes and how they are handling the challenges and changes that the coronavirus pandemic has created.
Tips for Staying Safe:
- OGR has compiled a list of companies that may have PPE, hand sanitizer and other supplies available. Members had been able to procure supplies at the time they shared the information.
- Members are also taking steps to stay safe during arrangement conferences. Using phone and video is ideal; however, if a family must come in consider limiting the number of people permitted (members have reported allowing only 2 family members). Consider giving a mask to family to wear during the arrangement conference.
- Cathie Tattrie of Smith Funeral & Memorial Services mentioned that funeral directors do not get the credit for the education they have in public health and how they protect themselves. They have spent time in microbiology and learning about viruses and how they can affect us, take OSHA courses, and are up to date on bloodborne pathogens. Funeral directors do a lot of that training on a regular basis. When they say, “embalmed is safe”, it is safe.
Looking Ahead – Suggestions for Preparing for after COVID-19
Ways to reach out to families who were not able to hold a large funeral with family and friends during the COVID-19 restrictions:
- Put the memorial service into the funeral plan during the arrangement conference. This way it is paid for and the family is more likely to schedule something once they can.
- Keep a list of cell phone numbers of next-of-kin and send a text message once you can hold public services again. Anton B. Urban Funeral Home is using a system through Funeral Innovations. OGR Supply Partner Domanicare is also able to send out text messages.
- Mail a letter or send an email to families explaining to them options for a memorial service through your funeral home. Smith Funeral & Memorial Services is planning to do this as soon as restrictions are lifted, and it is safe to hold gatherings. OGR is working on writing a template for this letter.
- Call families following the death of their loved one to check on them. Help families navigate paperwork. Follow up with a phone call once a service can be scheduled. Shumate Funeral Home has been keeping in touch with families this way.
- Talk to the churches where you hold funerals and discuss holding services on Saturday and Sunday afternoons once the restrictions have lifted.
Be sure to check out the COVID-19 page on the OGR website: www.ogr.org/covid19
OGR’s next round table will be held Thursday, April 30 at 3:00 PM EDT. This discussion is open to OGR members only. Learn more and register at www.ogr.org/covid19#Virtual. If you’ve already signed up, no need to register again. It’s the same link each week.
By Nancy Weil
OGR Member Resources Director