Mistaken identities, lost bodies, mass cremations, predatory practices – you might see the occasional story in the news about errors, illegal actions and misfeasance by funeral home staff.
But do you ever read or hear about cremations and funerals that go exactly as planned? Of course not. Because, when things go right, that’s not news.
The fact of the matter is unscrupulous funeral home owners, mistreatment of remains and the other horror stories you might hear about are the exceptions, not the norm. For every funeral or cremation that goes wrong, more than 2,000 are completed without incident: In all of those cases the deceased and the deceased’s family were treated with respect, dignity and professionalism from start to finish.
The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association looked at Federal Trade Commission statistics and found that just .04% of all the complaints to the agency were funeral home-related in 2014. That means that out of some 2.4 million burials and cremations performed last year, just 1 in 2,400 led to a consumer complaint. New Hampshire closely mirrors that trend with just 5 complaints last year for almost 10,000 burials, according to the state Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.
Funeral home directors become funeral home directors because they want to be of service. They want to help people through difficult times. They want to make sure the dead are treated with dignity and respect. As with every profession, there are bad actors out there, but fortunately they are few and far between. The majority of the people in the funeral business are professionals who strive to do the best by their clients as they possibly can.
Help protect yourself from fraud by researching funeral homes before you make a final decision. Check out reviews, what the provider offers and what they charge for services. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Congress passed Funeral Rule Legislation that was created to protect consumers by allowing them to get the information they need about the goods and services offered by a funeral provider. For instance, did you know you do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home? Federal law requires the funeral provider to allow you to provide your own.
Also, find out what processes the funeral home has in place to protect your loved one as they are prepared for burial or are cremated. An example is our Peace-of-Mind cremation process, which is a rigorous set of operating policies and procedures put in place to minimize the potential for human error.
Find out who owns the funeral home. In the 1990s, the funeral home industry saw big conglomerates buy up many smaller funeral homes. Don’t be fooled: While a funeral home may have been in your community for years under the same name, that funeral home could have sold out to a large conglomerate with a focus on little more than profit. Family-run funeral homes may be a better choice: they are dedicated to service and committed to the community.
And finally, make a personal visit to determine whether the “personality” of the staff makes you confident your wishes will be carried out. If the staff makes you uncomfortable, won’t answer your questions, or seems to be hiding something, walk away. There are other funeral providers that will be transparent, welcoming and who want nothing more than to make a very difficult time in your life a little less difficult.
* * *
Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been serving the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we own and operate four full-service funeral homes, three crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.