By Michael Godin
Planning for one’s own, or a loved one’s funeral can bring up a lot of emotions, it is not something about which people like to think. However, waiting until a death occurs can mean that final arrangements cost more. Making those arrangements in the first days of shock and grief from the loss of a loved one is often extremely stressful and taxing. On the other hand, pre-planning has a number of advantages. It removes any doubt for survivors as to the final wishes of their loved one. Pre-paying guarantees the cost for the services at the time of arrangement, even if the death happens many years later and the prices at that time are higher. At the time of death a series of things to do have already been taken care.
In the event that a death occurs at home, and it is not considered a suspicious death requiring the coroner to become involved, the death must be attended and recorded by either a doctor or registered nurse or by calling 911. However, if the death is imminent, the family can complete a form, Notification of Expected Death in the Home, available from their family doctor. When completed, a copy remains with the physician, one with the family and a third copy with the funeral home. Under those circumstances, it is not necessary to call 911. The person attending makes a record of the time of passing, waits for one hour and re-checks for any vital signs. At that time they can call the funeral home.
A care home, seniors residence, or hospice usually requires the family to pre-designate a funeral provider prior to becoming a resident. When a death occurs at one of these places, it is the facility itself that will contact the funeral provider to inform them of the death, at which time the transfer of the deceased will be arranged. When death occurs at a hospital any funeral provider must have the written permission from the family in order to transfer the deceased into their care.
There is no need to panic or feel a sense of urgency to have all the services completed when a death has occurred. By law, a cremation cannot take place for 48 hours after death. Take that time to be with friends and family, to mourn, to eat and sleep. You will then be able to think and act clearly.
When the funeral provider meets with the family, they will obtain all the necessary information which must be forwarded to Vital Statistics, along with the MCD – Medical Certification of Death, completed by the attending or family doctor. Once Vital Statistics has received both the deceased’s family information and the MCD, the Death Certificate is then authorized to be issued.
Before committing to the services of a funeral provider, it is best to find out more information about just who they are, how they go about their business and what they charge for their services.
There is a big difference between the “low cost” cremation providers and the “high cost” funeral homes. By law, a funeral provider must be licensed as a funeral director; however, they do not have to operate from a licensed funeral home. If one were to go to the addresses provided in ads for many low cost cremation providers, you will be at the private residence of the funeral director who operates out of their home. Many have no facilities for sheltering the deceased, no preparation facilities and definitely no crematorium on site. Many contract out all of their services to third parties. The result is they have no actual control over the deceased.
In Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, 80% to 90% of all funeral homes are owned by one or two large corporations based either in Houston, Texas or Toronto, Ontario, and whose shares are publicly traded on the stock exchange. There are a number of independent family owned funeral providers that are have licensed funeral directors and who operate from their own licensed funeral homes. Costs for funeral services by the larger chains are generally higher than those provided by independent operators.
Similarly, if a family intends to have a burial, the costs charged by cemeteries vary dramatically for the price of a plot, preparation, grave marker, etc. Some cemeteries are owned by the same large corporations that own funeral homes, while others are either owned by a municipality or are privately owned.
In summary, it is be best to plan ahead for the type of service you desire: cremation or burial, funeral or memorial/celebration of life. Shop around for the funeral provider and/or cemetery that fits your needs and budget; decide if those are the facilities and places that you would want to use when the time comes. Pre-planning for burial and funerals is just being a good and informed consumer about a part of life.
Michael Godin is Director of Community Relations for Personal Alternative Funeral Services. They can be reached at : 1-604-857-5779 or through their website, http://www.myalternatives.ca/