Virtual Arrangements and Streaming Services Help Keep Families Safe and Connected
ORLANDO, FL — While America’s healthcare system struggles to keep pace with the surge in COVID-19 hospital admissions, funeral services professionals are challenged to prepare for the grim prospect of as many as 240,000 coronavirus deaths. Foundation Partners Group, operator of more than 135 funeral homes, cremation centers and cemeteries across the U.S., is prepared with the experience, resources and technology to safely care for grieving families during this unprecedented outbreak.
Robert Bukala, president and CEO of Foundation Partners Group, said his team is hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.
“Federal and state governments have designated our businesses as ‘essential critical infrastructure’ and each one of our locations across 20 states remains open and ready to provide service for their community. Our team of more than 1,400 highly-trained funeral professionals are experienced in dealing with public health emergencies from viruses to natural disasters.
“While many funeral homes struggle to find gowns, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), our locations have ample supplies and a regional distribution network that allows us to quickly shift materials to locations in need. In fact, in many areas we’re sharing PPE with the local hospitals, emergency services, hospices, nursing homes and even other funeral homes. We’re also lending refrigeration capacity to local healthcare organizations in the hardest hit areas.”
In a letter to Foundation Partners firms, Bukala outlined the steps his company is taking to keep employees, customers and communities safe. They include:
- Online tools, like screen sharing and video chats, that allow families to make arrangements from the comfort of their homes, keeping both families and employees safe without sacrificing service levels.
- Live webcasting of services from funeral homes, churches and cemeteries where attendance is limited to no more than 10 people, allowing extended families and friends to participate and pay their respects.
- Increased frequency of deep cleaning and disinfecting all facilities, both backroom care centers and customer-facing areas.
- Daily online meetings to review updates from the Centers for Disease Control, assess evolving local guidelines, and share best practices and creative solutions.
- Special employee surge teams ready to assist local teams with arrangements and decedent care in cities hardest hit by the virus.
Addressing emerging trends, Bukala said, “We’re beginning to see an increase in the number of families who choose cremation, which has been a trend across our entire industry in recent years. And there’s definitely an uptick in families’ desire for virtual arrangements. Some locations have gone 100 percent virtual and we continue to meet every family’s needs. Webcasting is also catching on. Our team at McDermott-Crockett Mortuary in Santa Barbara, California, recently organized a graveside service attended by just three family members while 57 friends and family members participated via a popular web conferencing app.”
Chad Frye, funeral director and market leader at Foundation Partners’ Thompson Funeral Homes and Woodridge Memorial Park and Funeral Home in Columbia, S.C., said, “It’s hard enough to lose a loved one, but when the traditions that usually bring comfort at times like these are not available, it only compounds the grief that families feel. We’re focused on what we can do for families and how to best assist our local communities. We’re live-streaming services and finding creative ways to bring support and comfort, like pinning condolence notes to roses placed on empty chairs to represent those who cannot be there in person. Many families are opting for direct burial or cremation, while planning for larger memorial services at a later date.”
Foundation Partners Group has the scale, expertise and flexibility to shift personnel from one location to another if a funeral director becomes ill or requires quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure.
“Our close-knit network of funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries follow uniformly high operating standards that make such sharing of human resources transparent to the families we serve,” Bukala added.
“In this uncertain time, there’s one thing we want families across America to know. We are open and here to support you by delivering the high quality services your families have come to expect – regardless of the circumstances,” Bukala said.
About Foundation Partners Group
Orlando, Florida-based Foundation Partners Group is one of the industry’s most innovative providers of funeral services. The company owns and operates a network of more than 135 funeral homes, cremation centers and cemeteries across 20 states. Our organizational structure allows us to embrace and grow the legacies of the local funeral homes we acquire while leveraging the economies of scale, deep understanding of technology, and our ShareLife® customer experience-centered approach to deliver truly innovative and compassionate care to the families we serve. Visit www.foundationpartners.com to learn more.