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Forces of Change in the Funeral Profession: Sheltered from Death

January 27, 2020

Feature image of Forces of Change in the Funeral Profession: Sheltered from Death

Forces of Change in the Funeral Profession: Sheltered from Death 

By Josh McQueen, Vice President of Product 

In my two previous articles, I discussed how the technological revolution and a dispersed society have influenced consumer behaviors in the funeral industry. In this blog, we will look at another trend that is essentially a force of change for funeral professionals: the fact that people tend to be sheltered from death longer than in previous generations.  In other words, people are more likely to experience a death later in life. In this article, I will explore what this shift entails, and how to reach a consumer who falls under this trend. 

Discomfort Surrounding Death 

Let’s face it, our society doesn’t deal with death very well. We don’t like to think about it, talk about it, or be around anything resembling death. If you’re a funeral director, you have probably experienced being ushered through the back door of a hospital or hospice facility and then walking through a cleared hallway so as not to upset any of the living patients and families. This is because, as a society, we are very uncomfortable around death. It’s the lack of exposure to a significant death that causes this discomfort in our new consumers. 

Longer Lives and Delayed Deaths 

While generations before us certainly didn’t enjoy being faced with death, they did have to deal with it earlier in life and seemingly more frequently. Today, deaths seem to occur less frequently, but of course, that is not the case. However, people are living longer and dying later in life. Over the past 100 years, we have seen modern medicine increase the average life expectancy by over 30 years (cue the Social Security debate). This means that we have generations who are growing up having never dealt with a significant, life-altering death until they are in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. Personally, the only deaths I have had to experience were those of my great-grandparents. And even then, I was 26 when my great-grandfather passed away. I actually have a photo of him holding my daughter, his great-great-granddaughter. 

Deaths are Becoming More Expected 

Furthermore, when death does occur, it is increasingly becoming more and more expected. Not long ago, when someone was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, they were given a six-week death sentence. We’re now seeing people with the same diagnosis live for two or three years and use that time to gallivant around the world like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman to check everything off their bucket list. Studies show that about 30% of deaths occur at home or some “other” place while almost 70% of deaths occur in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term care facility. Families who have been living with chronic illness or prolonged medical care often express relief that their loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s has passed away. These families might not have preplanned the funeral, but they have certainly thought about what that tribute should look like. 

A Worthwhile Strategy 

To sum up, the big shift here is that the grieving process is no longer beginning at the funeral home—often, the funeral is simply the last step in the grieving process after an agonizing, long goodbye. However, just because it may be the last step, that doesn’t make it an unimportant one. To address this issue, ask yourself, is this death the first of this family? Am I offering them all they need to grieve? If I were them, would I be satisfied with the quality of service offered? This is where Passare’s Collaboration Center can serve your families. Yes, there are families who are sheltered from death, but it is the job of an empathetic funeral director to provide a great collaborative service and ensure families are processing their grief in a healthy way. 

  

This is only an excerpt of our “New Funeral Consumer” booklet. For more information about the changing funeral consumer and how to better meet their needs, check out our free Passare eBook.