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The importance of a partnership between Hospice and Funeral Home cannot be overstated. As the caregivers who usher patients and their families across the threshold of death, it is important that you share a trust in the professionals who are stepping forward to guide families through their next steps. Funeral directors often look to the Hospice team for guidance on family dynamics and to better understand the last days and weeks of a patient’s life. Additionally, we understand that you have invested a portion of yourself into caring and loving your patients, and we want to honor that bond by showing you that we will take the best possible care of your patient. Below you will find three reasons to encourage you to form a partnership with funeral staff, and better explain the work that we can do together to ease your patients’ minds.
1) Avoid emergency situations.
One of the most important advantages to having a partnership is to avoid emergency situations. We are all familiar with the middle of the night call, where a patient has passed and the family doesn’t know what to do about a funeral home. Your team has probably been encouraging them to make a decision, and warned them that it will be so much harder during the time of death without this information. By having a known and trusted funeral source, you can guide the decision makers into making that first phone call before it becomes an emergency. With a funeral professional to answer their funeral concerns, verify the life insurance information with them, and work to confirm any veterans’ information or additional needs, the family has a concrete step that they can take to make decisions for themselves and their dying loved one.
2) Ensure patient care.
Another very personal reason to have a relationship with a funeral home is to ensure that your patient receives the best of care. You know your community, and know which nursing homes, hospitals, and doctors provide the best care. You should have the same level of confidence in your funeral home. We can all agree that patient and family choice is of the utmost importance, and acknowledge that there is an ethical boundary in situations where you are asked for recommendations or to give guidance for services to one of your families. By knowing the options available and the quality of service you will expect them to receive, you are in a much better position to be helpful to them. Your patients deserve an option that best fits their individual emotional and financial needs. By knowing your funeral home, you are better able to assist when it becomes necessary.
3) Form connection when family isn’t there.
As a final consideration in the importance of forming a partnership with a funeral home, consider what happens to your patients’ when they have no family to take care of their funeral arrangements. Funeral professionals are always ready and able to assist you and your patients in securing as many arrangements as possible before the time of death. This can include a pre-need counselor who can create contracts to cover the cost of the funeral or cremation; as well as working with county specific programs to qualify for indigent services if covering the cost of services is an issue. Or perhaps there is family, but due to estrangement your patient refuses to have any contact with their legal next-of-kin. Funeral home staff can walk your patient through the process of legally granting a friend or acquaintance the right to control the disposition of their remains if applicable.
Funeral Directors and Covid-19 Vaccine
The vaccine priority for funeral directors in Gov. Baker’s and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts plan has funeral directors and staff as listed in phase 3, which is with the general population. This conflicts with the March 23rd list of essential workers and critical infrastructure workers which had funeral directors and staff in the same category with healthcare workers and first responders, who are listed in Phase 1 for the vaccines. This presents conflicting message about the importance of enforcing standards to protect public health while ignoring that of a workforce that has many risks for exposure and infection. Funeral directors and their staff are a unique and specialized workforce, which are not easily replaced.
Funeral directors many times throughout our day enter hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities and private residences to transfer the deceased into the care of the funeral home. Once at the funeral homes we prepare the deceased for final arrangements, which exposure during unique situations and responsibilities that the public is unfamiliar with such as embalming, soiled lines, biological products, and medical waste. We also meet with families who may or may not be present at time of death and may be unaware of their positive Covid-19 status. If it is the Commonwealth’s position that funeral directors have no more risk than the general public, then that is profoundly disturbing to us who have worked to care for so many of the families in our communities during these challenging times. The Massachusetts Funeral Directors Assoc. is working to appeal and change the phase for funeral directors to phase 1 which we were previously listed with other healthcare and first responders category.