Funeral Home Assistant Certification Course
Chapter Four
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Chapter Four
Examination

Chapter Four
 

HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ASSISTANT

 

MAKING A REMOVAL

 

When notice of the death has been received, and the remains have been released by the attending physician for the funeral home to transport, and the funeral director does not chose to use a livery service or first call service, you may be called upon to help assist in making a removal.

Death usually occurs at either a hospital, nursing home or residence. Always make sure there are two people going out to a residence where a death has occurred. This is because there may be things like steps and narrow hall ways to contend with. Two people can lift and navigate these architectural obstacles much easier than one.     

When you arrive at the place of death, it is always good to present yourself in a very professional manor. Language like, "Hello, my name is John Smith. I'm with the Johnson Funeral Home. We are here to transport Jane Doe / Mrs. Doe / your mother (depending on who you are speaking with) to the funeral home." is usually acceptable. Consult the funeral director for his or her preference of communications and dress code in all of these situations.        

Always make sure the bedding on the cot is clean and neat before you leave to go to the place of death. This will help maintain the reputation of your funeral home. If the remains are taken from a bed, take time to straighten the bed up as best you can. Always move in precise steady movements treating the property you are in with respect.  

It is recommended that as you are learning this job that you keep a journal of various institutions where death commonly takes place in your community, stating where to park, which doorway to enter and who to contact etc..

 

HELPING WORK A VISITATION

 

In some communities the visitation or viewing is held the afternoon or evening on the day prior to the funeral. Sometimes it is held on the same day, just an hour or two prior to the funeral. Always consult your funeral director for his or her preference of dress code and ways in which you will be required to assist in such situations.  

If you have been assigned to open the door or greet the visitors, a common greeting would be, "Good evening, would you care to sign the register book?" as you motion toward the register stand. If there is no register book selected or being used, a a simply “hello”, “good afternoon” or “good evening” is adequate. A common farewell would be, "Thank you for coming out tonight." Always use verbiage that is preferred by the funeral director / funeral home you are working with. Avoid slang and wordless gestures.        

Some things to keep in mind are to check the supplies in the restrooms and lounges to make sure they are sufficient for the potential needs of the event. If your facility has a separate area outside for smokers, you might want to occasionally empty out the ash trays and waste containers. Make sure the memorial printing (memorial folders or prayer cards) are always well stocked at the register stand.

 

HELPING WORK A FUNERAL

 

Procedures are similar to that of working a visitation. If you have been assigned to help form the procession to the cemetery in the parking lot, make sure you know the precise order the family members' cars are to be lined up. Some funeral homes use a “car list” to record this order. If this is the case than make sure you have one with you. If your state requires by law the use of a funeral flag, banner or identifier for the funeral procession, make sure each car in the procession is properly marked. Consult the funeral director for their preference in how this is done. 

Never raise your voice and unless an emergency arises, never run across the parking lot. Always move in a precise steady pattern. This creates a sense of security and stability for those attending.  

If you are working in side the funeral home and some one faints, never administer smelling salts without permission. The ideal thing to do is hand the smelling salts to a family member or friend of the person who has fainted and let them administer them. If it appears that someone needs medical attention, always seek qualified help first or call 911, or the local emergency medical squad. Never guess at the problem or "play doctor".       

 

ASSISTING IN THE PREPARATION ROOM

 

The first rule is to always wear protective apparel. Items such as protective gloves should be worn any time you handle the human remains from the moment of arrival in the preparation room from the place of death, until the remains has been embalmed, dressed and placed in the casket. OSHA regulations require your employer to provide protective items such as gloves and a face mask upon your request. Always wear gloves, even when cleaning up the prep room.      

Most funeral homes use disposable products in the embalming operation. Never try to re-use any disposables. Always place them in the proper waste containers.

Your job as an assistant is to assist the licensed embalmer in any way necessary that does not violate the laws regarding embalming or funeral directing. These jobs usually consist of restocking shelves and cleaning up after an embalming operation is completed. Some states or provinces do not permit by law an unlicensed or non-registered person to participate in the actual embalming operation.

Remember that everything you see and experience in the preparation room remains confidential within the room and the funeral home staff. When assisting with the preparation of a deceased for final disposition and movement of any human remains, treat the remains and the procedure with the greatest respect possible in the circumstances. Never take pictures in the preparation room (or any part of the funeral home) or publish articles on the internet about what you do or experience in the funeral home. This is highly unethical and in some localities even illegal.     

 

ANSWERING THE PHONE

 

It is always important to keep very accurate records of the phone calls you answer. You should always remain calm and speak with an even tone so as not to encourage anxiety or excitement in the caller. Be pleasant when appropriate and always extend courtesy and politeness. Try not to display or mix your emotions into the conversation.

Unless you have been specifically trained, never give prices out over the phone. If someone is calling inquiring about prices, refer them to a licensed funeral director who is present, or get a name and phone number and tell them a funeral director will be in touch with them momentarily.   

If someone calls to initially inform you of a death (commonly called a "death call") that has just occurred, it is always wise to get the following information:

 

1). The name of the person who has died

2). The present location of the remains (place of death)

3). Then name of the person who is calling you. 

4). The phone number of the person who is calling you.

 

Any other information you can obtain comfortably within the normal realm of the conversation may also be very helpful. If you are speaking with a family member of the person who has died, and there is a funeral director on available to you, put the funeral director on the phone with the family member. If the funeral director is not on premise or available, gather the previously mentioned information, and tell them you will have the funeral director get in touch with them momentarily. Then contact the licensed funeral director immediately and relay the information. 

 

CONFIDENTIALITY

 

Remember everything that takes place in the funeral home and during the funeralization or memorialization process is private and to be kept confidential within the confines of the family being served and the funeral home professional staff.

Think of every family that is being served by the funeral home you are employed at as your very own family. Strict confidence is exercised in every detail of service rendered. Any information that is to be given out regarding the particulars of any case or funeral should always be given through the licensed professional funeral directors or embalmers handling that particular situation.

 
Central Institute
for Educational Advancement
P.O. Box 750491
Dayton, Ohio 45475