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Unclaimed Remains: Proactive Solutions

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 10, 2017
Unclaimed Remains: Proactive Solutions

 

Recently, Michigan consumer media was alarmed to learn that a funeral home had stored cremated remains in a storage locker. Worried about nefarious dealings, reporters asked if this indicated criminal activity. Asked for comment, the Michigan Funeral Directors Association assured that possession and storage of unclaimed cremated remains is common.

Indeed, the new owners of the funeral home had followed best practices by identifying the cremated remains and attempting to find families. The previous owner encountered what many do – the families had abandoned the cremated remains at the funeral home. Under Michigan law, cremated remains only need to be stored for six months before they can be respectfully placed, but the staff at many funeral homes balk at taking further action. They are troubled by the idea that cremated remains could be irrevocably separated from loved ones.

A recent issue of The Cremationist discussed this very topic. The answer, simply, is to take proactive steps to emphasize the value of permanent placement in all discussions with families and to encourage them to make a deliberate decision. For many, cremation is valued because it adds time and flexibility to make these important decisions, so they tend to endlessly defer them. Three industry professionals offered their recommendations for helping families make a choice that is right for them and appropriate for the storage space available in their funeral home.


A Question of Value by Steven Palmer

The question I pose to families choosing cremation is, “what would you do for a final decision if you hadn't selected cremation?” Now ultimate determinations must be considered.

To assist them in this thought process, I tell them not to think in the short term, but think eternally. If a casket is placed in a permanent resting place, why not an urn? Scattering is an option only to be chosen when it is well thought out and meaningful. It should not be performed because “we couldn't think of anything else.”

Other options to suggested may be:
Family Heritage Plot: Where are your grandparents or great-grandparents buried? In a large family lot back home? I am sure that there is space for an urn to reunite family.
Veterans Cemeteries: When an employee's husband died and was cremated, I suggested he be placed in a local national cemetery, taking advantage of this no cost benefit he had earned. She mentioned his mother's urn needed final placement somewhere. I inquired whether her father-in-law was a veteran. He was, an honorable discharge and marriage certificate were produced and, even though the father-in-law was interred in another state, she was eligible. Son and mother were placed in side by side niches without additional cost to the family.

Other more contemporary placements such as niches along a cemetery walkway or base of a statue or even being part of a reef placed in the ocean. Creative thinking can solve this indecision.

Dealing with Cremated Remains by Daniel M. Isard

I have a very dear friend whose mother was dying. Not understanding what I did for a living, but knowing it was in the funeral profession, she called me to help her plan her mother’s disposition. She wanted her mother’s body to be cremated. We went through the process of planning the funeral service.

Before the cremation I asked, “Mary, who do you want to take possession of your mother’s cremated remains?” She said, “Oh we don’t want them. Just tell the funeral director to do something with them!” I said, “The funeral home can place them in a cemetery for perpetual keeping or give them to you to dispose of as you see fit.”

Many consumers don’t care what happens to the cremated remains of their loved one’s body. There are added decisions they don’t want to deal with. These cremated remains can be converted into diamonds or potting soil but the consumer doesn’t want to make that decision.

One technique that I have found to be successful involves building out the cremation authorization to include the return of the cremated remains. The family is told that they can either pick-up the cremated remains from the funeral home or the funeral home can deliver the cremated remains to the appointed family member. The key points are the date range for the retrieval.

Offering Guidance on Cremation Options by Mark Zimmer

We acquired firm a few years ago, and during our due diligence, discovered a cupboard containing 16 cremated remains that were unclaimed. They had two crypts at a local cemetery into which the unclaimed urns were entombed, reopened as needed to add others. While this is an effective way of placing unclaimed urns in an accessible place, it is costly and in my opinion, not an option one wishes to exercise!

We have all read the professional journal articles suggesting that the funeral director needs to offer guidance to families. I agree and feel it is imperative to discuss what the family’s decision on final placement of the cremated remains will be at the arrangement conference. In the arrangement conference I have heard such remarks as, “don’t you get rid of them?” and “I never thought of that!”

Winter time in Wisconsin can be brutal. Frost can go as deep as 5 feet, with 25 inches of snow on the surface. Families who desire a service in January many times wish to postpone any committal or military honors until spring. They also feel uncomfortable about keeping their loved ones cremated remains at home.

It occurred to me some time ago that we needed to create an option for those at-need families who were not sure of what to do with the cremated remains. Our firm developed an “Urn Repository” which holds cremated remains on agreement with the family regarding final placement, how long the urn will remain at our firm, and how we will contact the family regarding a service at a later date. We then track aging, just like receivables, and send reminders as well as phone calls. It is a system that has proven effective!


Lending your company’s authority and your personal experience guides families to made decisions to honor their loved ones in a meaningful way. Working together to honor families’ wishes and ensure the deceased is properly cared for is paramount to CANA’s Code of Cremation Practice. It’s our duty as a service industry to find balance and peace for our communities.

Members can read the full article with complete introduction and additional solutions from Chris Farmer of The Farmer Firm in Vol. 52, No. 2 Issue of The Cremationist. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access this and all archives of The Cremationist plus resources and statistics to help you find solutions for all aspects of your business -- only $470.

Steven Palmer

Steven Palmer entered funeral service in 1971. A funeral director in Massachusetts and California, he purchased the Westcott Funeral Homes in Arizona in 1997. He is a past president of the Arizona Funeral Directors Association and current National Funeral Directors Association Policy Board Representative for Arizona. He has been a columnist for the Nomis Funeral & Cemetery News (former YB News) since 1996 and has contributed to other funeral service publications.


Dan Isard

Dan Isard, MSFS, is a writer, educator, and management and financial consultant. He is the president of The Foresight Companies LLC, a Phoenix-based business and management consulting firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, valuations, accounting, financing HR services, and family surveys. He can be reached at 800-426-0165 or danisard@f4sight.com. Connect with Isard and The Foresight Companies by following them on Twitter at @f4sight or on Facebook.


Mark Zimmer

Mark Zimmer, President of Zimmer Funeral Homes, Inc., attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago in 1977. Mark moved to the Sheboygan area in 1983 after purchasing the former Ahrens Funeral Home in Howards Grove. In 1996, he acquired the former Gerend-Habermann Funeral Home in Sheboygan. In 2003, work was completed on the new 8500-sq.-ft. Westview Funeral & Cremation Care Center. Mark is a past president of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association and a past president of the Lakeshore Funeral Directors Association.

Tags:  aftercare  consumers  memorialization  tips and tools 

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An Online Presence is Essential

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 9, 2017
An Online Presence is Essential

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s no secret that technology is rapidly changing the face of the deathcare industry. That is why it is so important for our businesses to have an online presence. Staying connected to the devices our communities use most gives us the opportunity to boost sales, generate pre-need leads, and grow brand loyalty.

Of course, this story is nothing new. In fact, what you read above is an excerpt from an article in The Cremationist in 2015. So what can CANA add to the conversation now? Well, we are the experts when it comes to addressing the cremation gap (n.) the cremation knowledge gaps around industry topics.

The cremation rate in the USA has surpassed 50%, cremation is the new tradition, and CANA’s statistics point to demographic markers that predict cremation. These markers aren’t restricted to the amount of money in the bank, love for the deceased, or distrust of the industry. Instead, these are the traits of the Roamers who are less connected to a place, a faith, or even a home. And what is the first tool these Roamers will use to find a provider when the worst happens to their family or they’re planning ahead for that inevitable end? The internet, of course—available for free at any time of the day or night, without any pressure to make a commitment, and literally at their fingertips.

Talking to Generation C

The business world is abuzz with a new catchphrase: Generation C. Breaking free of the bonds of what it means to be a Baby Boomer or Gen X-er and refusing to give all the credit to the Millennials, Generation C has embraced the internet and social media. Much like the Roamers described by CANA, Generation C isn’t defined by age, race, religion, or geography: it only takes a wi-fi signal, a username/password, and enough friends/followers/likes to give you cred. Are you a member of Generation C?

Better yet, is your business talking to them? You can’t assume the only people looking online are under 40—and that means you can’t tailor your language that way either. Roamers are planning services for their families from far away: a sibling in Illinois coordinating with one in California about their parent in Florida. This rules out using a phonebook or referencing your local radio, TV, or print ad.

Make it Easy

At-need, time is critical, but no one will be obligated to dig to find you or your business during any stage in the process. Your contact information, services and descriptions, and price ranges should be readily available on your website and mobile-responsive for the browser on the go. Healthy activity on Facebook and other social media platforms demonstrates you’re engaged, informed, and still open for business. None of this can ever replace a phone conversation, much less a face-to-face meeting, but it educates and informs customers about their options, what they want, and what they can expect from your company.

The Pricing Dilemma

This industry has a contentious past with the posting of prices. More than any other profession, ours recognizes the gap between value and cost – price can’t accurately convey meaning. But, we’ve all heard the saying “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Apply that thinking to your business – is that what you meant to say? Is it the market you want to attract?

Our research shows Roamers have higher incomes, but that’s not to say that price isn’t a consideration. It must be for any big purchase. Putting prices on your website removes a barrier between your company and the consumer and brings families one step closer to making the call and arranging the meeting. Making information hard to find—or leaving it off all together—could get you a click, but it’ll be the red X in the corner (a left swipe).

How To Begin

In some ways, the solution is obvious: strengthen your website and engage in healthy social media activity. But, like every part of running a business, it’s not that easy.

“You may find these thoughts frustrating and feel that marketing really should be simpler. I agree, but I’ll also ask you what part of managing a business is easy: Licensing? Personnel? Complying with regulations? As with all those areas, the key is to learn all you can and use that knowledge to make the best choices. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn, find a professional who can help you, the same way you probably have your taxes done by an experienced accountant.”

A 2015 Cremationist excerpt again, but still relevant today. Building your online presence requires a plan which requires resource gathering, the right minds at the table, meetings, decisions, and execution – and all of that means it will take more than your niece’s kid running your Twitter feed. Ours is a unique industry that you have mastered. Now you need to translate that mastery into effective communication.

You have goals for your company. Think about those. Now define your audience (much narrower than your community): demographics, spending patterns, and the qualities of CANA’s Roaming and Rooted. You likely have multiple audiences you serve that have different qualities—now define your goals for them. What do you want to see change or improve? Okay, so develop a strategy to get there: what is the message, what is the tone and language, and what tactic is most appropriate for the different messaging?

Do you have a strong Celebrant base? Then target the non-churchgoer with explanations about non-religious services and personalization packages with images of your staff in unique locations.
Can you serve non-English speakers? Then learn their values and target messaging in their language and in English toward their next generation. Provide service options that speak to their culture and make shipping remains home easy.

Accessing powerful online channels in combination with carefully selected traditional marketing methods is the best way to activate your communication goals. But however you decide to talk with them, remember, “You'll really need to understand your families, your community, your competition, and the environments in which you do business.” Joe Wiegel (2015), “Marketing’s Silver Bullet,” The Cremationist, Vol. 51, No. 2.

 


With thanks to Joe Weigel, owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, for his evergreen insight.

Members can read Joe’s original article and all archives of The Cremationist by logging in to our website.

Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice from the only association who focuses exclusively on cremation families – only $470!

Tags:  arranging  consumers  tips and tools 

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The Opioid Crisis and Workplace Safety

Posted By Paul Harris, Thursday, September 14, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The Opioid Crisis

 

Opioid abuse is not only causing an alarming number of deaths among users, but its effects also now stretch to those who simply come into contact with the drugs. This has led to a nationwide effort by public safety agencies to revise policies and procedures to minimize the risk of exposure to these very powerful drugs.

The Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is a synthetic drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and heroin. Fentanyl acts quickly to depress central nervous system and respiratory function. Exposure to just a quarter of a milligram may be fatal – and some of its analogs are even stronger at even smaller doses. In September 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a critical statement to the public and law enforcement personnel warning of serious effects after unintended contact with carfentanil which causes major effects at just one microgram.

A recent White House Commission study found over 100 Americans die each day from opioid-related overdoses. US Department of Health and Human Services reports the greatest numbers of deaths occur in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

For the Employer

Death care professionals know of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) specific workplace safety standards for bloodborne pathogens and hazardous chemicals. Although opioid exposure poses a serious health risk, OSHA does not currently have an opioid exposure standard. However, under the OSHA's General Duty Clause, an employer aware of the risks of exposure to opioids who doesn't provide training could be cited in the event an employee is exposed and requires medical treatment. This article is not a substitute for actual training, rather to provide some guidance based on recommendations to law enforcement and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel.

Hazard Assessment

To address this safety challenge, follow the same process used for other workplace hazards. First, perform a hazard assessment (or include it in your annual workplace hazard assessment) to identify the tasks that expose or may expose employees to the drugs. For example, assessing the remains and surroundings before transfer to a stretcher, searching pockets for material before moving the remains, removing and storing the deceased's clothing and personal effects, etc. The assessment should also include personal protective equipment (PPE) best suited to protect workers against unintended exposure.

Exposure Control Plan

After the assessment, create an exposure control plan. This includes developing the work practice controls such as policies and procedures when employees know or suspect the drugs are present on or near the remains. The exposure control plan must also include a training program. Training will include the hazard assessment, all written procedures for minimizing exposure, use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), recognizing effects of the drugs, and procedures for obtaining medical assistance in the event of exposure.

Of course, not all unidentified substances found on or near human remains will be an opioid drug or even dangerous. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine the risk of an unidentified substance by sight. Thus all material should be considered hazardous until identified. When unidentified material is suspected to be an opioid, or is an employee exhibits symptoms of exposure, notify the local law enforcement agency immediately. Given recent advisories to law enforcement and EMS agencies, this may result in a hazmat treatment for the material, especially if staff develop signs of exposure at the funeral home/crematory.

The signs and symptoms of opioid exposure will depend on the purity, amount, and route of administration. The onset of symptoms can range from immediate to being delayed by minutes, hours, or even days. Watch for:

  • Altered Level of Consciousness: Excessive drowsiness; difficulty thinking, speaking or walking; confusion; lack of response to pain or someone’s voice; coma; seizures; pinpoint pupils.
  • Breathing: Trouble breathing – may sound like snoring; slow shallow breathing; blue lips and fingernails; respiratory arrest.
  • Altered Vital Signs: Slowed heart rate; low blood pressure; dizziness; cold, clammy skin.
  • Airway: Choking or vomiting.

For the Employee

Observing standard operating procedures in every case ensures the safety of you, your colleagues, and your loved ones. Contribute to a safe and healthy work environment by wearing necessary PPE, participating in risk assessment and planning, and notifying your superior of any signs of non-compliance or exposure. Keep yourself informed about the potential for contamination—reading this article is a great start!—and stay alert for dangerous situations.

This article is not a substitute for actual training, rather to provide some guidance based on recommendations to law enforcement and emergency medical service personnel.

CDC Guidelines

The CDC issued guidelines to protect law enforcement and EMS personnel from exposure to fentanyl or any drug in the opioid classification. Recommended personal protective equipment: respiratory protection, gloves, eye protection, coveralls, shoe covers, and protective sleeves.

Complete information may be found at the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fentanyl

Industry Partners’ Resources

For more information on this and related topics connected to the opioid crisis, take a look at:

Members can read the full article in Vol. 53, No. 3 Issue of The Cremationist.


Paul Harris

Paul Harris is President and Compliance Director of Regulatory Support Services, Inc., a company founded in 1994 and specializing in regulatory compliance consultation to the death care profession. He holds a North Carolina Funeral Service license and prior to joining the company was the Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service from 2004 until early 2012. Additionally, Paul served as the OSHA compliance officer for a large North Carolina-based funeral home and has eighteen years of first-hand knowledge of regulatory compliance issues.

CANA members receive a 10% discount on annual contract for OSHA and other training, services, and guidance with Regulatory Support Services.

Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!

Tags:  processes and procedures  safety  tips and tools 

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Get Ready for the 99th CANA Convention!

Posted By CANA Staff, Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Get Ready for the 99th CANA Convention!

 

Next week is CANA's 99th Annual Cremation Innovation Convention and we plan to take New York by storm! Here are a few tips so you can be ready to join us in the City that Never Sleeps:

Step 1.) Pack Right

CANA events are business casual so you can feel professional but comfortable networking with industry peers all day. And bring layers – your cardigan, blazer, or sweater – just in case!

Step 2.) Download the CANA Events App

Get Ready for the 99th CANA Convention!The new CANA Events app is available on the iPhone and Android to guide you through the event (check your email for login instructions). Track your CE with ease, get push notifications about upcoming sessions, give instant feedback about the event, and have exhibitor and speaker information at your fingertips.

Step 3.) Prepare to Network

Come ready to get answers to your business questions. 1.) Download speakers’ handouts from the app, read over their bios, and think about what you want to learn from their sessions. 2.) Review the exhibitor list and make a plan for who you want to meet – you never know who will have a solution to a problem you never thought of. and, 3.) Be ready to socialize! This event is for people who strive to learn more about the business of cremation and how to maximize its opportunities. Attendees will come from all over the world with ideas and experiences to share so get ready to join the conversation.

And, of course, don’t forget your convention essentials: business cards, pen, notepad, and smartphone (because we know business never stops just because you’re not there!).

Step 4.) Make the most of New York

Come on, it’s New York City! Take a bite out of the Big Apple.

Step 5.) Follow us at #CANA17

To keep up with the Convention fun, follow #CANA17 on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation!

And follow The Cremation Logs – we’ll provide some Convention insights when we get back so you won’t miss some of the most inspiring takeaways. Subscribe by logging in to the CANA site and finding the button at the top of the screen.


Can’t join the fun? Then save the date for the Annual Cremation Symposium at Paris Las Vegas February 6-8, 2018 and our 100th Cremation Innovation Convention in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. July 24-27, 2018 and catch up with CANA next year.

Tags:  events  tips and tools 

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Enhanced Statistics Enhance Your Business Success

Posted By Bob Boetticher, Jr., Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Enhanced Statistics Enhance Your Business Success

 

CANA is well respected for a lot of things, but, hands down, one of the most valuable assets produced by the association is CANA's Annual Cremation Statistic Report. For the past five years, I’ve been privileged to work as a member of CANA’s statistics committee, and I’ve always seen it as an amazingly powerful tool for analyzing current and future consumer trends and creating a strategy for building and growing my business.

I'm particularly excited about this year's statistics report. In addition to the usual numbers, the report addresses why cremation has grown at such disparate rates in various regions of the U.S. It examines the influence geography has on the percentage of the population that cremates, constructing a model to describe the growth patterns in detail.

CANA also examines the speed at which cremation rates rise, tracking how the velocity of growth speeds and slows as the numbers climb. Here’s some of what they found:

When the cremation growth rate over time is measured, an interesting pattern develops. It can take decades for the cremation rate to hit 5%—in the U.S. it took nearly 100 years from the legalization of cremation in 1876 for the rate to reach 5% in 1972 —but once it reaches 5%, the growth rate is more predictable.

Once you hit 5%, the cremation growth rate speeds up. CANA lays out a statistical model to describe a particular pattern in the rate of growth, beginning with the "Starting Point" of 5% and ending with a "Plateau Period," once an 80% cremation rate is attained.

The good news here—the BIG takeaway—is that we’re entering a period of great stability as far as business planning.

In other words, when cremation reaches 40% growth, you know that things will be moving really fast. This is the prime time to execute forcefully and decisively so as to diminish any disruption to your business. Knowing what lies ahead, you can avoid the panic or knee-jerk reactions that killed the businesses of so many death care providers in the geographic regions that have already experienced the rapid growth phase.

The third research component models demographic traits that correlate strongly with cremation rates. You can apply this information directly to your business.

… people of all races, genders, and ages choose cremation. Other demographic data demonstrate an interesting pattern with potential implications for your business.
Whether compelled by circumstance or eagerly searching for new opportunity, more and more of the U.S. population has chosen to roam across the country and around the world. Many have loosened their connections to their geographic origins and increased their exposure to new traditions. Conversely, there are significant portions of the population who are rooted to their hometowns and remain deeply connected to the traditions they grew up with.

CANA’s report found various traits associated with these "roaming" or "rooted" segments of the population:

RoamingHigher Cremation Rate
Areas with a high concentration of small businesses and businesses owned by women, less religious affiliation or affiliation with religions other than Christianity, higher incomes, lower home ownership but higher home values, higher education levels achieved on average, more immigrants and populations that speak a language other than English in the home.
RootedLower Cremation Rate
Areas with higher concentration of manufacturing businesses and output, high affiliation with Christianity, lower income, higher home ownership rates but lower home values, lower education rates achieved on average.

You can see how important it is to understand your community demographics. If you know which segments of the community you currently reach, you can hone your message even further. You can also find ways to increase your market share when you identify new segments to target.

Come out to see my statistics presentation at some point in the future. I’d love to show you how you can choose to be profitable. It’s empowering to know that you can use these facts, models, and numbers to make educated choices about how to lead your business.

Want to know more about the way statistics can help you? Join me for my presentation on Using Cremation Statistics to Enhance Business Success for Cemeteries and Funeral Homes at CANA’s upcoming 99th Annual Cremation Innovation in New York City, August 16-18, 2017. Register here to take advantage of this illuminating workshop.


Bob Boetticher, Jr.

Bob Boetticher, Jr., a Past President of CANA, is on the CANA Statistics Committee and presents CANA statistics across North America to show how anyone can transform their business with data. A second-generation funeral director and a Market Director at Service Corporation International, he has over 30 years of industry experience. Bob is a funeral, cemetery, and cremation expert who is dedicated to improving the funeral profession.

For more information, take a look at CANA's Industry Statistics brief. Members can access the full Annual Statistics Report and archives by logging in.

Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!

Tags:  consumers  statistics  tips and tools 

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