The Effects of Baby Boomers on the Funeral Industry

The baby boomers – known as the generation that redefined traditional values and were a major catalyst in changes to lifestyle and social norms – are continuing to live up to their reputation, even as they begin to face end-of-life realities.

With just under 25 percent of the U.S. population over age 55 in 2011 (according to the Census Bureau), it has become apparent that funeral service providers need to pay attention to the unique demands of these consumers, who like to plan ahead and want to customize every detail of their final arrangements.

We see a great deal of this in the services we provide at our firms.  We have hosted funerals where food / passed hors d’oeuvres are provided during the services, jazz and rock bands have played, Harley Davidson’s are used in the funeral procession, with the urn strapped to it, and where classic and muscle cars were used in the funeral procession.   Of course customized caskets, urns and keepsakes are also a growing trend.  We are continuously kept on our toes with new and unique requests and our funeral directors are tasked with thinking outside the box, to meet the growing demand for these value-added services.

CNBC recently published a very interesting article on this topic, which I invite you to read:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/100788587#_gus

Breaking the Mold of “Cookie Cutter” Obituaries

This week, an obituary written by the daughter of Harry Weatherby Stamps has gone viral across social media and is receiving national attention.  For good reason, as it was a moving, entertaining and out of the ordinary obituary.  What I realized, however, is that this type of heartfelt account of someone’s life − that is written in a way that truly personifies the individual, with traces of humor or quirkiness − shouldn’t be out of the ordinary.

If you’ve ever needed to write an obituary, you would know that, although it is an honor, it is no easy task.  In fact, it’s one of the most difficult types of writing to do, even for professionals.   But perhaps it would be just a little easier, if you didn’t feel pressure to write something formal or that fit into a specific format.   Some may be more comfortable simply “filling in the blanks,” but others may appreciate the liberty to showcase the descendant’s personality.  Reminiscing about what made this person who they were can certainly help in the healing process.  It can actually be therapeutic.

However you would like to approach the obituary of a loved one −whether you allow the funeral home or newspaper to write it for you, or if you choose to write it yourself – the key is to be writing about life, rather than their death.  Make sure to ask yourself “how would they like to be remembered?”  It should be a celebration of your loved one’s accomplishments and help to paint a portrait of their life.   Honor this person for who they were and what they meant, to you and everyone whose lives they touched.

To read Harry Weatherby Stamp’s full obituary visit: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sunherald/obituary.aspx?n=harry-stamps&pid=163538353&fhid=4025#fbLoggedOut

Online Account Pre-Planning

Social media websites, as well as financial ones require secure login and passwords. Some also require a second level of security, in the form of a security questions or a pin. These security measures are in place to help prevent hacking, but they also make it very difficult for a family member of someone who has recently passed away to access these accounts.

Unless passwords and user information has been left in a will or other secure place that someone knows about, family members may have a difficult time accessing these accounts. Requesting online account access is not always a simple process. Many websites require proof of death, proof of relation, and details within a will that name you as the executor. Even social media sites have strict requirements in order to delete an account of someone who has passed away.

Communicating your wishes regarding how you want these online accounts handled is essential to help your loved ones avoid the challenges of accessing these accounts. The information should be stored somewhere that can be accessed by family members, or a digital executor should be named in your will.

The digital executor would be granted explicit permission to control the accounts. Additionally, you should have a list of every online account you have with passwords and state your wishes for each. For example, you may wish that all the pictures be downloaded off of your social media sites and given to a specific relative, or you may want certain accounts completely shut down.

There are also companies that will store your passwords on a secure server. This “master” account is easy for you to login to and update accounts and passwords frequently. This is ideal if you have passwords you need to change often, as it could be costly to continuously make updates to your will. If you select an online service, be sure to assign a digital executor in your will providing the “master” account details, so that they may access all the accounts.

By taking these actions, you will save your family much time accessing, managing, and/or closing your online accounts. We hope you take these steps in helping make the process easier on your loved ones.

The Difference in Family-Owned

Last Sunday evening, 60 Minutes reported on the conduct of many large firms within the death-care industry. They pointed out several locations across the United States that were not following ethical procedures, including exhumations without notifying the family, mishandling information, pressure sales, and double-selling plots, among other issues at various cemeteries.

In this special report, SCI Corporation (also known as Dignity), a company listed on the NYSE, was reported to have had a disproportionate amount of complaints against the cemeteries they own across the country. Unlike this national chain, we are dedicated to ensuring the needs of the families we service come first. We take pride in providing the highest level of service to our customers, and would never pressure families at their most vulnerable time.

This is where the difference lies between a publically-traded death-care firm and a family-owned funeral home, such as ours. Our staff is caring and compassionate, and dedicated to serving your needs.

Often times, families may think they are dealing with a family-owned business. It’s important to ask the firm whether or not they are family-owned when dealing with a funeral home, as many may seem family-owned, but in fact are owned by SCI/Dignity or other large corporations. During some of the most difficult times of your life, you deserve to be treated with integrity, professionalism and compassion. We encourage you to choose a locally-owned organization with a good reputation, for your loved one’s final farewell.

Why Attend our Estate or Funeral Planning Seminar

Our Estate and Funeral Planning Seminars will be taking place next week. We’d like to share our thoughts on why you should attend one of these free seminars.

The seminar will provide you with the information you need to understand the benefits and process involved in estate and funeral pre-planning.

The presentation will be given by an Estate Attorney and one of our Funeral Directors (Michele Plasz or Buddy Phaneuf).  The information they will provide is invaluable. Additionally, they will be available to assist you with questions you may have.

Most importantly, considering preplanning and estate planning is the first step in ensuring that all of your final wishes will be fulfilled. It can eliminate the financial burden that a funeral might pose on your family, and provides you and your family with the peace-of-mind in knowing that everything has been “taken care of”. It’s the best gift you can leave your loved ones. We encourage you to attend a seminar.

The preplanning seminars will be taking place on May 15, 16 and 17. Please visit our seminar page for information on times and locations of each seminar, as well as to register for this event.

Selecting a Funeral Home

Making funeral arrangements after losing a loved one can be very emotional. Choosing a funeral home that makes you feel comfortable will certainly help you throughout this process.

The most common practices for selecting a funeral home are choosing the funeral home that your family used in the past or selecting the one that is closest to your residence. Although both of these methods of selection are common, they are not necessarily the best way to select a funeral home. We encourage you to spend a few moments looking into a funeral home before making your decision to ensure that you are selecting one that will meet or exceed your needs.

Please keep in mind that there are many national funeral chains that are acquiring family-owned funeral homes.  Large corporations own nearly ¼ of all the funeral homes in the country, and over 10% of NH funeral homes.  These corporations are continuing to acquire funeral homes, which makes it quite possible that the family-owned funeral home you used in the past is no longer run by that family.  Be sure to check into this, as your experience with the national-chain may be very different from the last one you had with a family-owned home.

Additionally, you should do some research into the funeral homes servicing your area. You can do this by looking into funeral homes online or by calling the funeral home and speaking with someone to determine if you feel comfortable with them.

At the end of the day, the funeral home you select should make you and your family feel very comfortable and supported in paying tribute to your loved one.

Hospice Information

There are many misconceptions of what Hospice is and what they do. Here’s some information you may not be aware of.

Hospice is not just for cancer patients. Hospice care is for patients and their families during any life-limiting illness. It’s care that provides comfort and support to patients facing life-threatening illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less.

It is not necessary to go to a Hospice facility for care. Within the past decade, approximately 90% of Hospice care was within the patients’ home.

After the patient’s death, Hospice will provide grief support to families for a year, and in some cases, even longer.

There are over 2800 Hospice programs across the country and several in NH. Here is a (partial) list of Hospice organizations that serve our communities:

Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of NH & VT (www.vnavnh.org)
Community Hospice House (www.hhhc.org)
Home Healthcare, Hospice & Community Services (www.hcsservices.org)
Amedisys Home Health Care (www.amedisys.com)
Beacon Hospice (www.beaconhospice.com)

There are many other NH-based Hospice organizations not listed above. If there is one you are particularly fond of, please share your comments.

Hospice Recognition

Hospice Christmas Spirit Flyer

Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium and Cremation Society of NH would like to recognize two hospice caregivers or volunteers who truly embody the Christmas spirit.

We appreciate everything that Hospice CareGivers and Volunteers do, and look forward to recognizing two of them for their dedication to helping families. Please nominate someone you know and help us in finding someone who truly deserves this recognition.

In addition to this recognition, we are always looking for ways to help Hospice organizations. We enjoy sharing Hospice news and events in our monthly newsletters. If you have any information you would like us to share with our online followers and newsletter subscribers, please feel free to email the details to josee@phaneuf.net.

We look forward to your nominations!
CSNH Nominations accepted at:  http://www.facebook.com/CremationSocietyOfNH
Phaneuf Nominations accepted at: http://www.facebook.com/phaneuffuneralhome