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Resource How do funeral professionals approach senior care and hospice  professionals in their  respective communities to become a resource?  Not a solicitation to care for their deceased clients, but a resource  providing professional training, information and assistance.  A  funeral  director is an educated, licensed professional that can become a  tremendous asset with the local clergy, health, legal, senior care, and  hospice professions.

When developing a marketing and operations platform for our new funeral home, I met with and listened to several hospice and senior care professionals.  I asked them to share what they do for their clients, how their clients qualify for their respective services, what are the different positions within their organization and so on.  These professionals were excited to share their work and passion with me.  After learning about their operations, I then asked “what don’t you like about the funeral homes that you deal with regularly”? That’s when I received an earful.

“When we call during odd hours, it seems to take forever for the funeral home to respond, much less show up…the guys making the removal are very impersonal,”  and so on.  I asked if their organizations had a working relationship with the local funeral homes, and most indicated they did not.  If anything, funeral homes would donate for their fund raisers or drop off pens and such.  From this line of questioning, I then solicited from those I met with “if you owned a funeral home and you wanted to work with a local organization like yours, what would you do?”  There were many suggestions, but what struck me as resoundingly important was the funeral home should be providing training and become a resource.  The reluctance from those that I met with was that in the past they invited funeral homes to develop a relationship by presenting to their staff or participating in some sort of event, the hospice got the feeling that the firms just wanted to sell pre-need or some type of product.

After learning about senior care and hospice organizations, their work, their passion to make a client and their family’s transition to death comfortable, I thought through how a funeral home could be of service to their staff.  Training, Education, Resource.  Why not provide the staff with information about what happens after their clients die…what does the family have to deal with…how can a family prepare for death…what can families expect after the death occurs…basically once the transition work until death is complete, share how does a funeral professional carry forward the hard work started by senior care and hospice.

Upon completion of the research, I developed a training platform for staff and volunteers that have direct contact with those that are dying along with their families.  Within the platform, there is no solicitation of the funeral home or its services, but information and training of what a family will need to know prior to death occurring and how to prepare.  Details on subjects such as Social Security benefits, end of life legal preparedness, Veteran’s benefits, important documents such as life insurance, how a funeral home expects to be paid, what is a GPL, DNA issues, and so on.  In addition, I created a website and accompanying materials as tools for those receiving the training as well as a resource for families that have a loved one facing death.

Upon presenting this training, I was overwhelmed at the reception and participation among those in attendance.  Many did not know how soon after death a physician must sign a death certificate, their state’s regulations pertaining to embalming and or refrigeration, etc.  Subjects and regulations that funeral professionals regularly must follow so that those in attendance may assist by providing families information prior to death; to make the transition to death easier.  During the training multitudes of stories were shared by the participants from their own loved one’s death and those that they had cared for.  The training provided was valuable both professionally and personally.

At the conclusion of the training, the hospice and senior care professionals now had tools and information to deliver to a family without feeling uncomfortable about the topic of impending death.  Additionally, because of the training we developed a relationship…we became a resource.  There was no fear that if these professionals called for any funeral service information or questions our firm would not respond with starting up the removal vehicle or requesting a meeting with a pre-need counselor.

 

Hospice worker holding elderly man s hand UKI was recently visiting one of our funeral home locations when the firm received a death call.  There was quite a bit of activity already going on, so I volunteered to assist on the home removal.  The opportunity to participate in what I consider one of the most delicate actions taken by our profession, is actually a privilege.

The transfer and removal of a person that dies at home is quite an interesting part of the funeral profession.  When developing our funeral home, I spent time with hospice care workers and owners inquiring about what they do, how they do it, and how funeral homes are perceived from their point of view.  I asked several times “what don’t you like about funeral directors?”  The resounding first answer was the way many funeral homes conduct home removals.  “Funeral homes take too long to respond…from the time we call, many times to an answering service, then a funeral director finally calls back, and waiting for the people to get there often takes a long time.”  The problem they shared, was that the family now had a deceased loved one in their midst…and families are often worn out and uncomfortable waiting.  “When the funeral home people finally show up, it’s often really impersonal.”  Meaning, the transfer staff/people generally were there just to get the job done and leave some information for the family to read until contacted by the funeral home.

So, when we developed the Family Choice brand and it’s operating platform of TouchPoints, transfer/home, home removal was a big deal.  Such a big deal, that there are 59 specific steps of how to perform this process.  I happened to be with our Executive VP of Operations, which basically meant that I was certain the process should be flawless.

Upon arrival we were met by the hospice nurse, one that apparently was not familiar with us, nor us with her.  She met us outside prior to beginning our process at the removal vehicle.  After introducing our selves, she stated “well, I haven’t worked with you and I guess you’re just like everyone else.”  That’s when the pro (our VP) took over.  He shared how we are different…not the old “we care more speech or we’ve been here since Sherman burnt down the South” rhetoric.  And then, he asked her “how long did you serve this family and  would you share with me your experience with them?”

She told us that the woman suffered from cancer and that she was on home hospice 4 months. The hospice nurse went on to share how sweet family is and how they cared for her at home.  Additionally, and most important to me sharing this with you, she said “and I am going to miss her (the deceased), she was like family to me.”  That’s when the pro, our VP reached in his pocket and took out a white Mourningcross Bereavement Pin and asked the hospice nurse if he could give it to her and pin it on her collar.  Being a bit stunned, she allowed him to do so.

He shared with her that although her chosen profession is a job and that’s how she makes a living, she also develops relationships and mourns for the loss of her patients…because she is human.  “So this pin is to remind you of your relationship with the deceased and to publicly show that you are grieving the loss.  When people ask or notice this pin, share with them the story of your patient, or in this case, your friend.”

After wiping some tears away, the hospice nurse stayed with us to observe our process of caring for this family, and “the last time she leaves home.”  Needless to say, we have a new friend that cares for others.  Just remember, hospice and senior care workers mourn too…

P blog It’s the time of year when many of us have either already or currently  conducting an annual “to do” list. There are many processes that  people to use to review their past and develop milestones for their future.  A while back I was privy to somewhat of a formula that  is a great way to review what my priorities are.  So, here is my 2014 “get your priorities in order” advice:

There are 168 hours in a week.  If we spend 8 hours sleeping, then we are left with 112 hours of “being awake.”  If we work a 45 hour week, then we have 67 hours of not sleeping and not working…what are you doing with this “extra time?”

To assist with finding what your real priorities are, try answering these three questions; Where do I spend my time, where do I spend my money, and what do I think about most of the time? We all have the same “time bank account.”  If you want to change the results you are receiving for your life, then change your priorities.  Cheers y’all.

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