Hospices building on relationships with funeral service providers

Categories: Care.

According to a consumer survey in 2012, about 75 percent of respondents felt that a funeral was extremely important, especially to the grieving and healing process.* (*NewsLine, July 2013)

This points to the value of improving communication — and increasing collaboration — between hospice professionals and their local funeral service providers, the very goal of NHPCO’s own collaboration with the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

Fortunately, recent surveys of both the NHPCO and ICCFA memberships indicate that, overall, both hospice staff and funeral service staff work pretty well together now — and are interested in working together more often to support families at a very critical time.

Feedback From ICCFA Members

The ICCFA survey was conducted earlier this year, with the majority of respondents representing funeral homes (83.1%), and substantially fewer representing cemeteries (15.2%) and crematoriums (1.7%).

More Than Half Now Work With Local Hospices

Approximately 57.9 percent of the ICCFA respondents now partner with local hospices to provide educational activities for their communities, while 64 percent provide hospice staff and volunteers with tours of their facility and information about their services.

Do You Currently Partner on Community Education?
57.9% Yes
42.1% No

Do You Conduct Property Tours for Hospice Staff and Volunteers?
64% Yes
36% No

Over 80 Percent are Interested in Future Collaboration

Approximately 84.3 percent of ICCFA respondents would like to jointly offer education or activities for members of the community.

Are You Interested in Future Community Education Partnerships?
84.3% Yes
15.7% No

What’s more, 62.9 percent would be interested in serving on a hospice’s board of directors while 68 percent are willing to offer continuing education programs for hospice nurses.

Also of particular note was the respondents’ perception that there was indeed room for improvement in terms of developing their relationship with local hospices. Only 16 percent of respondents ranked themselves a “10” in their relationship with local hospices, suggesting that most perceive more work is needed.

Feedback From NHPCO Members

The NHPCO survey was conducted in the Fall of 2013. Respondents represented 466 hospices, with 10 percent identified as urban, 38 percent as rural, and 52 percent as a mix of urban/rural. The majority of these hospices (80%) had an average daily census of 25 to 200 patients.

When asked what family needs and concerns were greatest in terms of funeral and burial arrangements, respondents cited several, including cost; information (e.g. choices, procedures etc.); familial/cultural concerns; emotional needs/barriers; and dignity, respect, and honoring wishes.

More Than Half Now Partner on Community Outreach at Least Once Per Year

Similar to the feedback from ICCFA respondents, 60 percent of NHPCO respondents said they have partnered with funeral service provider(s) in the last three years. What’s more, 84 percent indicated they have done so at least once per year, while 22 percent noted partnering on five or more occasions.

In terms of the types of activities, several were noted:

  • Events for Veterans
  • Holiday Coping Programs and Tree of Light Memorials
  • Grief Support Groups
  • End-of-life Planning Workshops
  • Community Events About Funeral Arrangement Processes and Choices

Many Provide Support in Other Ways

NHPCO respondents also noted other ways in which local funeral service providers have worked directly with their programs and staff. For example:

  • 65 percent of respondents said local funeral service providers have conducted education and training for their staff and volunteers
  • 26 percent said funeral service staff members have served as volunteers, and 31 percent said they have served as board members
  • 48 percent said funeral service providers have been fundraising event sponsors.

It’s important to also note that 94 percent of NHPCO respondents said they have never advised a patient/family for or against the use of specific funeral service providers. Remaining impartial while working collaboratively to serve the patient and family is paramount.

Barbara Bouton, NHPCO’s vice president of professional development, shared findings from the NHPCO survey during a presentation at the 2013 ICCFA Management Conference, providing concrete feedback from NHPCO members on how funeral service providers can better support hospice families and improve their working relationships with hospices.

Collaborating With Your Local Providers

As you consider community outreach during National Hospice Palliative Care Month as well as during the holiday season, consider your local funeral service providers as possible partners.

For inspiration, consider these examples:

  • Hospice of Michigan and Borek-Jennins Funeral Home hosted a fireside discussion about the bereavement process, “Winter Warmth Event,” with complimentary hot cocoa.
  • HRMC Hospice and Wells Funeral Service Homes Inc. & Cremation Services have jointly hosted support groups, memorial services, and a holiday seminar about grief and loss.
  • Community Hospice of Northeast Florida and Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes & Cemeteries co-sponsored a special event on “Improving the Care of Veterans Facing Illness and Death.”


(This article originally appeared in NHPCO’s NewsLine, Fall 2014 edition.)

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