Funeral homes and those who work with individuals at the end of their life are facing new realities due to the rapid spread of coronavirus. Funeral homes are being forced to make unnatural amendments to their offerings that correspond to their regional guidelines and overall understanding on how to deal with infection to protect their communities and staff.
- Restricting face to face meetings After the passing of a loved one families often go to visit the funeral home in person and have a discussion about what kind of services they would like. With global lockdowns families are being asked to join staff via an online video meeting or to join them in person by appointment only. Although appointments can be uncomfortable as normal consoling gestures are no longer safe, creating an awkward environment in what should be relieving during a time of grieving.
- Limiting guest visits The numbers vary greatly on the region, but all funerals are facing some kind of limitation on guest counts. It could be as high as 50 guests or as extreme no services allowed at all. This is a new reality for funeral providers who normally do their best to help families honor their loved one, with no limitations in mind.
For viewings, some funeral homes are allowing families to take turns and enter in groups of the approved number. This is especially important for large immediate families who potentially have many children who want to have their moment to say goodbye. While it is not ideal that the group can’t be together at least it offers a small solution during an uncontrollable situation.
- Six feet distant seating Families that are unable to put off services are now entering into services with a new and bizarre distance unknown to the consoling tone of funeral homes. For the first time funeral homes are discouraging warm embraces to the grieving and encouraging guests to maintain a six feet distance to deter any spread. From the wake to the cemetery, funeral homes are forced to keep guests informed of safety protocols since the virus could be easily spread during funeral services.
- Excessive cleaning As central gathering places and facilities that perform procedures on human bodies funeral homes are always on top of best hygiene practices. However, coronavirus is making homes go above and beyond industry standards.Some homes have started to buy industrial sprayers to treat surfaces, often in less time and with better coverage than traditional cleaning methods. Giving additional sanitation on vehicles, gathering rooms, and any rooms where the body of COVID-19 victims have resided.
- New removal safety procedures Funeral home workers are now wearing protective personal protection equipment (PPE) to pick up all deceased. Guidelines for funeral directors concerning the coronavirus have been put in place around the globe.If possible funeral homes are also asking hospitals or nursing homes to bring the bodies to the vehicles or an outer limit of the facilities for the removal workers to pick up the bodies, to limit access to a contaminated environment.All removals now also include a face covering, to prevent any potential exhale of droplets with the virus from entering the death care worker’s environment. Some homes are also double bagging the deceased as an extra precaution during pickups.
- Readily available hand sanitizer Hand sanitizer is now placed at every entry point in funeral homes. When entering the funeral home, going into main rooms, drinking stations, or bathrooms, all are adorned with hand sanitizer stations.Signs are also placed through facilities reminding families about the importance of hygiene and how to keep themselves safe through hand washing. A reminder that is normally seen in the bathroom rather than every room of a funeral home.
- Offering streaming services To help accommodate those unable to attend services when they normally would, funeral homes are now offering streaming services. While it’s not a new service offering, homes that hadn’t invested previously are now expected to provide it as an option. Many funeral homes are even offering it for free during this difficult time when services aren’t being held as families truly desire.
- Drive-in ceremonies Since families are limited to the number of members who can attend a ceremony some funeral homes are getting creative by offering a variation of drive-in options, so while guests don’t get to grieve all together they do have an opportunity to be there in a safe environment.
- Hearse Drive-by’s In Italy where bodies had to be laid to rest without the presence of the family, some funeral home directors were able to offer some condolence for the grieving by driving by the homes of those in quarantine with the hearse on its way to the burial ground. Allowing families at least to say a small in-person prayer in the proximity of the deceased.
- Closed casket recommendation With no official information on how long the virus lasts in the system after death funeral homes have had to begin suggesting closed caskets for services. While embalming does offer disinfection there is no official report to confirm the body is then safe and as such, there is still a recommendation for no kissing or touching of the body.