Funeral industry adapting in time of social distancing

Funeral homes in the Ottawa area are turning to high tech solutions and new practices to help families deal with the loss of loved ones as governments put stricter regulations in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government declared a state of emergency and ramped up social distancing measures, including closing restaurants, bars and indoor recreation centres. The government also prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. 

The demands of COVID-19 are changing the business, said Bruno Carchidi, president of Tubman Funeral Homes.

"We're going to adapt and update some practices, including being able to sign documentation via email and being able to communicate more commonly through Skype or FaceTime," he said. 

Courtesty of Jerry Roberts

Funeral homes are also offering the live streaming of services.  

"I have been involved in helping families through turbulent times of loss for just over 35 years," said Jerry Roberts, vice-president of funeral service for Arbor Memorial, the parent company for Kelly Funeral Homes. "Many of the peers I've spoken with have never experienced anything quite like this."  

Roberts said funeral homes are allowing gatherings of 50 people or less, but ushers are instructed not to get close to people, and guests must go through a series of screening questions before being allowed inside the building. 

Hugs and handshakes aren't recommended. 

"While it's difficult, I think people understand that this is a time that, well, we want to restore some calm. We still need to ensure that we protect everyone to the best of our ability," said Roberts.  

Services postponed

While all burials are still going ahead, some families are making the difficult decision to postpone memorial services. 

"We do have some circumstances where families are distant and are hopeful to be able to come together, but they're unable to because of the travel restrictions," said Roberts.

In those cases families are being offered the option of holding a service or memorial sometime in the future.