Funeral Service & Hospice: More Connected Than Ever?

Posted April 19, 2016

5 min read

We sat down with Jason Bruce, a funeral industry consultant, writer and speaker, to talk about some of the most important topics right now for funeral directors. In this post, we examine the connection between hospice and funeral homes – and what funeral directors should start to consider.

Hospice is An Important Resource for Families—And That Isn’t Going to Change Any Time Soon

While writing an article for Mortuary Management Magazine, Bruce spoke with Alan Edwards, a registered nurse, about the synergies between hospice and funeral.

“He’s a long-time hospice nurse – he has been there for 18 years. We sat down and talked a lot about what we had seen come and go in our industries,” explains Bruce. They had both seen their fair share of trends come and go, but they both noticed the gradual and steady rise of hospice and palliative care, in particular.

“The first hospice opened in 1971, and since then has gone to about 6,100 hospices nationwide. There has been an increase in the number of people using hospice and palliative care services, but also an increase in the people and patients seeking at-home hospice care, rather than being in a facility,” adds Bruce.

Hospice and palliative care is becoming more popular by the numbers, and funeral directors should take note.

“Hospice care facilities have become such an important local resource for increasingly diverse, and often younger families, who may not be very familiar with any or all of the local funeral homes in town,” says Bruce. “Therefore, the importance of starting and maintaining a good solid foundation with the local hospice organizations is key in helping to grow market share for funeral homes,” says Bruce. Also, when someone passes away, in the great majority of states across the US, a registered hospice nurse, or a doctor (or a coroner or medical examiner’s office) or a combination, has to come and do the pronunciation. “And usually, if the person is under hospice, it’s the hospice nurse that comes out and does the pronunciation,” points out Bruce.

Combine this with how some families, especially younger ones, do not have pre-need set in place, and the family ends up asking the hospice nurse – or whoever is there – who they should call.

Hospice workers may not be able to point them to one specific funeral home, but they do act as a resource, and at a critical time for families.

“At 1:00 AM in the morning, we don’t necessarily want families scouring the Internet, or scouring the phone book trying to find the best funeral home in town,” explains Bruce.

Building Relationships with Hospice

Bruce’s recommendation for funeral directors is to build authentic relationships with hospice facilities so that when the time is right, your funeral home can be top of mind.

It might be working with a hospice organization in the community, introducing or telling workers what you do at your funeral home, providing them with resources, giving them brochures, meeting the people who work at the facility. Whatever is done to create and build that relationship is an investment, and has the potential to help in the long-run.

“When a hospice nurse does show up at the house, it helps if they have some material they can present to these families – those who have the questions, and say, ‘Here are a few options in the area, and go ahead and look them over.’”

It’s another way to work on awareness, outreach and to work on strengthening relationships in the community, Bruce says. “It’s very important for funeral directors to do these outreach programs to hospices, because people are increasingly looking to them to help the hospice workers to know where to go, or what to do next. We want our funeral home [to be on the list] when that person is asked, ‘Who do I call?’ And, it helps maintain a good reputation [with and in] our community.”

About Jason B. Bruce

Jason Bruce is a consultant and public speaker in the funeral industry, focusing on funeral home management and occupational safety. He is a monthly contributing author for Mortuary Management Magazine and has been a featured guest host on “Get Smart Radio” and other radio shows and podcasts around the country. Bruce began his career in the funeral industry in 1996, at the age of 15, working for the local funeral home in his hometown of Rochester Hills, MI.  After graduation from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and completion of his apprenticeship, Bruce received his Mortuary Science License, returning to Michigan to work.   In 2004, Bruce moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he worked for Carriage Services, Inc., as a Funeral Director and Location Supervisor. Bruce has also worked as General Manager of Pacific Interment Service, a privately owned funeral home and crematory located in the heart of San Francisco’s mission district, and as Managing Funeral Director with Stewart Enterprises Inc.

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