Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Funeral and Memorial Practices - What To Do With The Body?, Ceremony To Mark The Death, How Will This Person Be Remembered?

Funeral and Memorial Practices - The Funeral As A Purchase

aging social differences death final press arrangements

It is customary to think about funeral, burial, and memorial practices as social, religious, and cultural rituals, but they have become characterized as consumer transactions as well. The American Way of Death (1963), a best-selling book detailing the anticonsumer practices of some members of the funeral industry, helped to expand the grassroots Funeral and Memorial Society movement, now known as the "Funeral Consumers Alliance." Currently there are about one hundred local societies dedicated to educating consumers on funeral options and costs.

In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Funeral Rule, requiring every funeral home in the country to provide accurate, itemized, written price information to anyone who asks for it in person. The rule also prohibits funeral homes from engaging in deceptive or unfair practices. The Funeral Rule applies to both preneed and at need (after the death) funeral home purchases, but does not cover cemetery, crematory, grave marker, or third-party casket sellers. Consumer advocates are calling for an expansion of the Funeral Rule to include all vendors of funeral-related goods and services.

With most deaths postponed until older adulthood, and funeral directors serving as the repository of final arrangement information, many families face making or overseeing final arrangements without much experience. A 1995 study reported that half the people responsible for final arrangements of a deceased loved one had no idea what the final costs would be before they met with the funeral director. Despite this lack of knowledge, a lot of money is at stake. The mean cost of final arrangements, the study found, was $6,500 (a range of less than $200 to over $14,000).

It is ironic that as the number of funeral and memorial options has increased, the average adult's experience with making final arrangements has decreased. There is also a lack of consensus as to who is responsible for making final arrangements, and when they should be made. Especially in the case of older adults, should decedents make and pay for arrangements before death? Or should this responsibility fall to survivors? These decisions are generally dealt with on a family-by-family basis, though more information, discussion, and options regarding funeral and memorial practices can be expected with the aging of the baby boom cohort.

MERCEDES BERN-KLUG

See also DEATH AND DYING.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BERN-KLUG, M.; EKERDT, D.; and WILKINSON, D. S. "What Families Know about Funeral-Related Costs: Implications for Social Workers." Health & Social Work, 24, no. 2 (1999): 128–137.

BOLTON, C., and CAMP, D. J. "Funeral Rituals and the Facilitation of Grief Work." Omega 17 (1986–87): 343–352.

BROWN, J. G. Soul in the Stone: Cemetery Art from America's Heartland. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

CARLSON, L. Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love. Hinesburg, Vt.: Upper Access, 1998.

Cremation Association of North America. 1998 Cremation Data and Projections to the Year 2010. Available on the World Wide Web at www.cremationassociation.org/html

DAWSON, G.; SANTOS, J. F.; and BURDICK, D. C. "Differences in Final Arrangements Between Burial and Cremation as the Method of Body Disposition." Omega 21, no. 2 (1990): 129–146.

EGGEN, D. "Death Finds the Web." Washington Post, 17 May 2000, p. A01.

FARRELL, J. J. Inventing the American Way of Death 1830–1920. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.

Federal Trade Commission. Complying with the Funeral Rule. Washington, D.C.: FTC, 1995.

FULTON, R. "The Contemporary Funeral: Functional or Dysfunctional?" In Dying: Facing the Facts. 3d ed. Edited by H. Wass and R. Neimeyer. Washington, D.C.: Taylor and Francis, 1995. Pages 185–209.

Funeral Consumer's Alliance. Information available at www.funerals.org.

HABENSTEIN, R. W., and LAMERS, W. M. Funeral Customs the World Over. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Buffin Printers, 1960.

HAYES, C. L., and KALISH, R. A. "Death-Related Experiences and Funerary Practices of the Hmong Refugee in the United States." Omega 18, no. 1 (1987): 63–70.

IVERSON, K. V. Death to Dust. Tucson, Ariz.: Galen Press, 1994.

JACKSON, K. T., and VERGARA, C. J. Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989.

KASTENBAUM, R. "Cryogenic Suspension: An Interview with R. C. W. Ettinger." Omega 30, no. 3 (1994–1995): 159–171.

KASTENBAUM, R., and KASTENBAUM, B. Encyclopedia of Death: Myth, History, Philosophy, Science— The Many Aspects of Death and Dying. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1989.

MITFORD, J. The American Way of Death. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1963.

MURPHY, S. L. "Deaths: Final Data for 1998." National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 48, no. 11. Hyattsville, Md.: National Center for Health Statistics, 2000.

Order of Christian Funerals: Study Edition. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1990.

ROBERTS, P. "Tangible Sorrow, Virtual Tributes: Cemeteries in Cyberspace." In End of Life Issues: Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Edited by B. DeVries. New York: Springer, 1999. Pages 337–358.

RUBY, J. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995.

SIEGEL, M., ed. The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells. New York: The New York Times Company, 1997.

SLOANE, D. C. The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1995.

WOLFELT, A. D. Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies: A Guide for Caregivers. Fort Collins, Colo.: Companion Press, 1994.

[back] Funeral and Memorial Practices - How Will This Person Be Remembered?

User Comments

The following comments are not guaranteed to be that of a trained medical professional. Please consult your physician for advice.

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or