coronavirus

Funeral Home Industry Adjusting to Social Gathering Restrictions

The pandemic has made it hard for families to plan a funeral, leaving them to choose which 10 people will be able to attend

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Planning a funeral or deciding whether to attend one during the pandemic can be a devastating choice for survivors.

Adding to the grief are social gathering rules, limiting the number of people -- and the level of comfort -- families can feel during a loss.

That's because with social gathering restrictions funeral homes are limited to just 10 people, including the funeral director and a preacher.

Mike Day, the general manager for cemetery operations at Restland Funeral Home and Memorial Park, said planning a funeral during a pandemic can feel overwhelming and incomplete for families.

“That’s a big impact. If you have a funeral director and a preacher, now all of a sudden you’re down to eight people that is allowed at that gathering. And once again, it’s horrible that families who were already enduring the death and loss of someone then have it further compounded due to this,” he said. “There’s large families or a large group of friends that want to pay tribute and respect and now they simply can’t because it’s another burden put on the families to select people -- who do you choose?“

Funeral home workers are considered part of the essential businesses listed under the stay-at-home orders in North Texas.

However, in addition to limits on group gatherings, even casket selections and funeral planning can't be done in person anymore in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.

But the funeral home industry is adapting to the changes.

Managers at Restland have laid out new services pertaining to the COVID-19 crisis.

Among those changes are planning services only through FaceTime or teleconference. Paperwork is being done virtually through an app called DocuSign. It allows people to sign documents, often as an app through their email, by using a mouse to scribble signatures or a finger on a smartphone.

“We just kind of changed our mindset and have been able to use this technology to offer our families the funeral arrangements,” said Day.

Livestreaming of funerals is becoming a popular alternative. Restland is offering livestreaming free of charge using their own video equipment and web service so that relatives can watch from afar.

This technology has been used by funeral homes before but was not widely used as it is today.

“It’s amazing how we do start utilizing resources that have always been there. They’ve just been underutilized,” said Day.

There's some more hope for families. Restland said it will care for loved ones at no additional cost for anyone who wishes to postpone funeral services in the midst of the pandemic.

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