Life working in a funeral home . Everyday happenings


I’ve been trying to watch my stats and what brings most readers to my blog. Most search engine terms that appear are about death certificates and I can only write so much about death certificates. So, if any readers who happen across my blog and do not find answers about what they are looking for regarding death certificates (or any other topic regarding the funeral buzz) please just ask! I will do my best to answer, if not I may be able to forward you in the right direction.
Now onto other stuff…the other search term that pops up often is, what goes on in a funeral home, what is working in a funeral home like ? Well… I can shed some light there…..
It really isn’t too much different than working in any other office except most of the time we have  bodies at our office. They of course aren’t hanging out with me in my office while I work, they are usually in the prep room or already dressed and casketed and in the chapel/rooms. If they are already in one of the chapels that means that obviously we are going to be having a visitation that day or the following. So we will start with what goes on in the funeral home if we do not have any visitation or funerals that day. We open at 9am. So I and whoever else is working, have to be there at 9am. We turn on the lights and all that stuff…. then whoever was on the phones the night before will let me know if there is anything new, any new death calls. If there was/is they (it is typically my boss/director) will give me the info they took and let me know if the body is already at the funeral home or if I need to call for removal or if we will be making the removal. Then sometimes when they receive the call, if the person passed at a hospital, nursing home, in hospice care, they will try to get the doctor name and phone number. If they had gotten that info I will call the doctor to verify he/she is signing the death certificate and when can we come to get it signed. If there is no doctor info then I have to get it. Which means I have to call medical records if it was a hospital death. Call the medical examiner if person passed at home and not under hospice care. Or I will have to contact the hospice main office to find the doctor info. If the director who took that new call he/she may ask at that time, if he/she spoke with family, when they would like to come in for arrangements and set an appointment time with them. Or we may have to contact the family in the morning to set an appointment time (hoping they don’t just show up!! Just a reminder…DO NOT just SHOW UP!!!) So one of us will try calling the family to set appointment. When we get a new call, most of the time if it is family or a hospice nurse, they will inform us if the deceased had prepaid their funeral, so we will pull their pre-need file and look over the information. Even if a family does not notify us of any prepaid funeral we will still look just in case. Even though it is prepaid the family still must come in to finalize the arrangements. Usually on the pre-need file the deceased info will have been filled in. But, we still go over it with the family in case anything has changed, especially those pre-needs that may have been done years ago. I don’t like typing the death certificate on the prepaid files just in case things have changed, lime address or last name. Also there are times when families come in and once we start going over the info that was supplied to us during the pre-arrangement, they find that something is incorrect it spelled wrong, etc… and it is a Hassel to correct a death certificate once its been types or to have to retype it (if not already signed by doctor). Once we get that death cert. signed we cannot white out anything!! We can try to lift off the error but that doesn’t always work and it sometimes just looks bad/sloppy or we end up ruining it. So it is best to wait until we have the correct info! If the deceased did not have a pre-arrangement then I will begin a new file. If I am sure of the spelling of their name I will begin to start filling out the file with, of course their name, male or female, date of death, time of death, if I have it, place of death, what city of death, county of death. If I have any other info I will enter that as well. If we know it will be a cremation then I will get a family cremation authorization form and put that in the file for the Director. Once the family arrives for their arrangement, the Director or whoever is doing the arrangement will go over the info we need for the death cert. Then they will begin asking what they would like as far as visitation and funeral services. The family will need to choose prayer cards/memorial folder and also a prayer/verse for the card/folders. Ask how many death certificates they will want and if cremation will verify who the next of kin is and have that person(s) sign the form. The family will then need to choose a casket if they plan on having viewing and also a vault if burial. Once that is completed, if there are any obits to be done the Director will give me the file or a copy of file so I can type an obit and have the family approve it. The Director or I will have to contact clergy if needed or the church if family will be having a funeral mass and coordinate times. Also we must contact the cemetery to coordinate times as well as verify the deceased has property there and if so, is there any money owed for opening and closing or has it been prepaid, and we get the location of space. If however, the deceased did not have property then the family MUST physically go to a cemetery of their choice and purchase space. We will also need to know from the family if they will be paying he cemetery or if they will want to add those charges to the funeral home  bill and we in turn will write the check to cemetery. Most cemeteries, regardless if the deceased has prepaid property or not will require the family to pre-site the space. So we have to notify the family that they will have to go to cemetery. Some families will bring in clothing when they come for arrangements, other families will brig clothing to us later. We also need a photo for hair and make up, any jewelry and anything else the family may want on the deceased or placed with the deceased. If the family wants to use a life insurance policy to pay for funeral expenses we will need that policy asap! If they have brought it in with them I will try to contact the ins co while the family is still there so we can verify the policy is good and that they will accept a funeral home assignment. Once the family has left we then have to order the casket, the vault, any flowers, hearse, limo, submit the obit(s), embalming, dressing, hair and make up. Also once we know for sure the times of funeral service or Mass we will contact cemetery to let them know when we will be arriving. If there was an insurance policy we will have to type a funeral assignment for the beneficiary to sign and get any claim forms that may be needed to be signed. We have the deceased info at this time in order to type the death cert. Once it I typed we can take to the doctor if the doctor is available if not at that time then we take it when we are told we can take it. Once it is signed it can be filed and we get the number of cert copies the family ordered. There is also all the printing that needs to be done. In between all of this we are also answering phones and doing other work that needs to be done. We could have another funeral arrangement from the day before that still has work to be completed, there is billing/accounting, filing etc. Then phone calls begin inquiring about the visitation times and funeral times for the arrangement that was just there. You also never know when the bell rings who is at the door….could be a walk in for arrangements or maybe even a pre-need. Then the day of visitation we have to make sure the deceased looks OK, make sure make up and hair is done, set up the chapel, turn on all lights and heat/air, make coffee for family and once flowers begin being delivered, carry them all in chapel and place them in appropriate place. AND again….deal with the phone and door and whatever other work that needs to be done! For instance yesterday, not only did we have 2 funerals we also received 3 new calls, one of those calls scheduled arrangements for later in day and other 2 were for today. We also had a death certificate to pick up from a hospital which is about a half hour away, then bring it back to funeral home to be typed. Then we had 3 other death certificates to be filed, so 4 total to be filed. Then I had to get the doctor info for the arrangement that we had. In between all of that I had to straighten up the chapel from the funeral we had and get together all of the families belongings, get all their flowers together because they would be coming back later to pick everything up. Also I had to get an insurance assignment for the beneficiary for that family so he could sign it hen they came back and I was also working on another insurance policy on another family we had the week prior, we had just received the claim form from ins co and I needed to get them ready asap because the daughter had called earlier and the Director told her we did receive the claim and she said she would be by later to sign them. I also received a call from a man whose wife passed away in 2001 and he needed a copy of the paid in full funeral bill. I still had to type the death certificate for the new call as well as do other work in file after they were done. So, it was crazy busy! Some days are like that some days (that are far and few between) are really quiet. You just never know what is going to happen.. when you walk in the door in the morning you just never know. Oh and did I mention during all the craziness of this past week, it was just two of us working?!? So, for those who were thinking there is a person/employee for each job, no there is not. The secretary gets the majority of the work. The Director/Embalmer gets to, typically, meet with family and embalm, if necessary. If the director is not busy, he/she will help out with other work that needs to be done. Now keep in mind that most of the work we have to do is all time sensitive. So that is what it is like to work in a funeral, for the most part. If you are working during visitation, well add all your work in with keeping the family who is there happy. Is it warm/cool enough, do they need more prayer cards. Does the coffee need to be made. Plus, some families are more demanding then others, what I mean is, the second they see coffee is getting low, they are right there to tell you….same for anything else in which they may think of. Had a family not to long ago who kept asking for tissues. I went and got a couple of boxes and set them out for them and then went and asked the Greeter if they could go to our storage closet and bring a bunch of tissues out and set out of the way in case the family wanted more. So my Greeter comes into my office and asks me if I thought there were no tissues in the chapel, I said that the family had asked for more so I assumed for some reason there was none in chapel or maybe the boxes they did have were almost out. Well none of that was true! My Greeter says that when I had a minute to go peek in chapel. So I went to take a peek and the family had decided that they wanted to place a box of tissues on every other chair in the chapel!!!! Let me just say that we have about 50-60 chairs in that chapel, plus 5 loveseats, and 6 other larger comfy chairs. Apparently they thought that each and every person was going to need a whole box to themselves or actually should say every two persons would need a box between them. So we purchase these boxes of tissues and place them all over the funeral home, there is no reason anyone needs that many boxes! It looked absurd! So when another family member asked for 3 boxes of tissues about an hour later I told them, No, there are plenty in there and if we place more in the chapel e were gonna run out and there should not be a box on each chair anyway. I was told that everyone loved her aunt so much that she just knows that everyone will be so upset that she can guarantee everyone in the room will be crying and there won’t be a tissue left! Hmmmmm….OK. well, about 30 people tops showed up for aunt Deb’s visitation…and maybe 20 top for the funeral the following day….maybe those who came for visitation thought that all the seats that had a box of tissues on them were reserved or that it was just downright odd!
Well, I hope those, like me, are surviving this horrible freezing cold and snowy winter!! I for one am fed up with it all!

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2 Responses to “Life working in a funeral home . Everyday happenings”

  1. AdminAsst Says:

    I have often felt the same way, that working at a funeral home, as office personnel, is much like any other office with regards to payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank deposits ect…

    One major part of the job is that we constantly working under deadlines (no pun intended). In fact 75% of my job is working under a deadline i.e. getting obits to the papers in time for their deadlines, having all the burial permits and checks ready for services, getting certifieds before services (our state we can get them the same day the person dies, if we get the death cert. signed and filed in the same day.

    What many people do not understand about the funeral business is that it that we constantly under pressure. We may seem calm and composed to the public, but behind the scenes we are in a constant state of rushing to get things done so the public has a quality experience, as they bid goodbye to their loved one.

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