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Archive for the ‘Practicalities in the aftermath of death’ Category

Recently, I came across this letter written to Bel Mooney of the Daily Mail.

Dear Bel,

I don’t think I can say I have a problem, more a niggling worry that I’m sure is experienced by lots of people.

I’m in my 60s and have no family, friends or job. I just have my husband who is in his 70s. I suppose he is likely to die before me (not to be morbid, just realistic) and then I will be totally alone. This I will have to deal with like anyone else, but I’m concerned about what will happen when I die. Obviously I can leave a will so that any money and assets will be distributed, but what will happen to all the things that mean something to me, but have no monetary value?

For example — photographs, ornaments, all the little things one collects over a lifetime. With no family to leave things to, I hate the idea of strangers pawing through my things and then throwing them away. Realistically I know this is what will happen but I find it worries me. I don’t know why it should — after all, I won’t be there to see it. Am I being silly and shallow to be bothered about this, particularly when other people have terrible problems and tragic lives?

I don’t want to talk to my husband about this as I think he may get upset if he thinks I am upset.

Do you have any advice?

EVA

I know that the concerns this lady is expressing here are shared by many in the same or a similar situation. This is exactly the kind of scenario that Lovingly Managed was set up to help with. What a shame this lady doesn’t know about us. If she did, she could put in place an End of Life plan and contract us to carry out her instructions. If she did this, she would have the comfort of knowing that it wouldn’t be complete strangers ‘pawing’ through her things but people that she had met face-to-face and that the instructions she had left for those people, contained in her End of Life plan, would be respected to the letter.

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Recently, Lovingly Managed was granted associate membership of SAIF (Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors) and we were asked to submit around 400 words to be included in SAIF Insight. We duly obliged and thought no more about it. Here it is.

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Lovingly Managed is a company offering a wide range of services that cover the spectrum of death and dying from end to end. Within this, the company provides a number of services relating to funeral organisation. These services are ones which are not undertaken by the funeral director so, by taking them on, Lovingly Managed aims to relieve the bereaved of still more of the administrative burden associated with organising a funeral. These tasks include things such as ringing or writing to relatives and friends of the deceased to inform them of the venue, time and date of the funeral; sourcing a venue, if required, and organising the catering for any post-funeral hospitality; sending out thank yous/acknowledgements for the receipt of flowers and donations on behalf of the family. Lovingly Managed will also send out first anniversary announcements or respond to first anniversary acknowledgements, organise an anniversary memorial service if this is required or work with the family to create an on-line memorial.

Lovingly Managed welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with the independent funeral sector, providing our services on an outsourced basis so that independent funeral directors can enhance their service offering without increasing the workload for their existing staff or incurring higher staffing overheads and, as a result, be in a position to deliver added value to their clients and so gain a competitive edge within their local market.

While we’ve given a lot of thought to the kind of help a family may want in relation to a funeral, in addition to what is provided by their funeral director, and to what a funeral director would feel were services that naturally complement his/her own and so would be happy offering them to clients, we are always willing to consider any request for something we may not have thought of, either from the client or the funeral director.

Lovingly Managed also operates a referral scheme for funeral directors in relation to the drafting of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives and the company’s own End of Life plans. Our End of Life plan allows people to document specific and detailed instructions regarding their end of life and the finalization of their estate that are not contained in a will or other legal document. They can prove immensely useful for people who are on their own and are worried about who will take care of things and they can also help to eliminate the potential for disputes between bereaved family members. They are a natural partner to pre-paid funeral plans. Contact us for more information on our referral scheme.

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Then we received the following email:

“I have seen your advertisement in this months SAIFINSIGHT publication that we receive as Funeral Directors and also reading your website I want to express my opinion. As a PROFESSIONAL funeral director of some 17 years dealing with hundreds of families I am so angry at what you say you can deliver especially what you think funeral directors do not do! You mention funeral co-ordination and organisation! and mentioning what we as funeral directors do not offer or organise. Can I tell you as a private family business what we provide families is second to none every detail is covered every option given, I wouldn’t dare hand that over to someone else to do for me. Your information is very misleading to say the least. I am going to go through your website with a fine tooth com be so to speak, and give my findings to the relevant funeral organisations. I am also going to express what I find to other funeral directors. SAIF also whom you advertised with need to look at what they print, again I am going to speak with them direct. I am so angry, I have looked after some very high profile funerals one in particular last year that was covered by all media, the amount of organisation, preparation and co-ordination that goes into all the funerals I look after not just that particular funeral, I treat as a privilege to able to organise. I trust you are all professionals yourself which I respect, but what you offer is a jumble of different things. I am also looking at your bronze silver etc etc plans, again its very interesting to say the least.”

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Ooops, we do seem to have upset someone. Never were the words ‘I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood’ so appropriate.

Looking at the wording of what we’d written to see what could possibly have caused so much offence the only thing we could think of was that we should have qualified the sentence “These services are ones which are not undertaken by the funeral director so, by taking them on, Lovingly Managed aims to relieve the bereaved of still more of the administrative burden associated with organising a funeral” by adding the words, ‘as a general rule’ after the word ‘not’ i.e. ‘These services are ones which are not, as a general rule, undertaken by the funeral director so, …………’.  Or maybe the misunderstanding arose because by stressing the word not he thought we were somehow being critical of the service FDs provide when, in fact, our intention was to stress that our services don’t impinge on those provided by the FD but merely complement them.

When we set up Lovingly Managed, we researched where the funeral director’s service ends, AS A GENERAL RULE, and looked at where we could pick up any slack and offer additional services that would relieve the bereaved of more of the administrative burden that arises  in the immediate aftermath of a death.  In addition to that, we have all arranged funerals of close family members so know from personal experience what additional help we might have wanted which wasn’t part of our funeral directors’ service portfolios. This is in no way meant as a criticism of the service offered by funeral directors, just a statement of fact. Every business has to decide the scope of their service, what they will do, what they won’t, where their service ends or you could go on and on.

Obviously, from what our detractor has written, he won’t be interested in working with us because he offers all these services himself. Good for him. No one is forcing him to work with us; no one is forcing anyone to work with us. We have a service which we believe could be of benefit to funeral directors, not necessarily all of them, and their clients and it’s there if they want to avail themselves of it. If not, so be it. And, as it was an internal industry magazine, it’s obvious that it was not our intention to denigrate the service provided by funeral directors with the general public. But what I find perplexing is why he should take such offence at our service to the point that the tone of his email becomes vaguely threatening. He is going to ‘go through our web site with a fine tooth comb and write to give his findings to the relevant funeral organisations and he is going to express what he finds to other funeral directors’. I’m not sure what he thinks he’s going to find but he seems pretty determined to be as down on us as he can be as well as to actively undermine us to others and all this without ever having spoken to us.

Contrary to this attitude, Denise and Sharon recently attended SAIF’s Welsh Regional Meeting and Christmas Dinner and met several funeral directors who felt our business concept had merit and were interested in exploring how we might potentially work with them so we are encouraged that there is acceptance within the independent FD sector; hopefully the suspicious will be a small minority.

Denise, Sharon and I started this business because we believe we offer a valuable service that bereaved people will find helpful at a particularly difficult time in their lives, a view which is regularly reinforced when we speak to members of the public. We are therefore saddened that this particular individual seems to wish to attack our credibility and read the worst into what are genuinely good intentions.

PS: Next day …….

Oh, and then we received this one from someone who chose to contact us totally anonymously from one of those web sites where you can set up a bogus email address. I wonder why?!  May I just point out that the spelling mistakes are those of the author, so have a read and decide who is the ‘unprofessional’ one between us.

From: daffyduck@*************.com [mailto:daffyduck@**************.com]
Sent: 12 December 2011 14:27
To: info@lovinglymanaged.com
Subject: Lovingly Managed – Feedback
Name: Walt disney
Email: daffyduck@**************.com

Feedback: what a mickey mouse outfit you are, totally unprofessional chancers wanting to make money by offering deflunct services. It amazes us how you get away with what you offer and the price.. property seraches! room clearance! end of life planning! help with moving! escort service! why not add walt disney production!…

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Last September an elderly woman died. In the immediate aftermath of her death, no one in her family got round to letting her credit card provider, MBNA, know that she had passed on. Although she had a zero balance, unfortunately her annual service charge became due shortly after her death and this was charged to her card. Because this wasn’t settled, late fees and interest were also added in October and November. By the time this was picked up by her grandson, she had a balance of £60 on her card.

The following interchange that took place between her grandson and the MBNA credit card call centre was reported recently in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

Grandson: ‘I am calling to tell you that she died in September.’
MBNA: ‘The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’
Grandson: ‘Maybe, you should turn it over to collections.’
MBNA: ‘Since it is two months past due, it already has been.’
Grandson: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?’
MBNA: ‘Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!’
Grandson: ‘Do you think God will be mad at her?’
MBNA: ‘Excuse me?’
Grandson: ‘Did you just get what I was telling you ? The part about her being dead?’
MBNA: ‘Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor.’

Supervisor gets on the phone:

Grandson: ‘I’m calling to tell you she died in September.’
MBNA: ‘The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’
Grandson: ‘You mean you want to collect from her estate?’
MBNA: (Stammer) ‘Are you her lawyer?’
Grandson: ‘No, I’m her grandson’ (Lawyer info given)
MBNA: ‘Could you fax us a certificate of death?’
Grandson: ‘Sure.’ (fax number is given)

After MBNA gets the fax:

MBNA: ‘Our system just isn’t set up for death. I don’t know what more I can do to help.’
Grandson: ‘Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don’t think she will care.’
MBNA: ‘Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.’
Grandson: ‘Would you like her new billing address?’
MBNA: ‘That might help.’
Grandson: ‘ Heaton Cemetery , Heaton Road , Newcastle upon Tyne Plot 1049.’
MBNA: ‘Sir, that’s a cemetery!’
Grandson: ‘Well, what the f*** do you do with dead people on your planet?’

Apparently, MBNA were not available for comment when a reporter from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle rang.

The reaction of most people reading this will be to laugh at the farcical standard of the customer service provided by a huge organisation that, in the 21st century, really should have the appropriate processes in place to handle this situation. I mean, surely they realise, sometimes their customers WILL DIE. Fortunately in this case, the caller was the switched on and emotionally resilient grandson. But how different might it have been had it been an emotionally vulnerable elderly widow who’d just lost her husband having that conversation with some badly briefed and poorly trained call centre agent?

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Many large corporations continue to demonstrate an unbelievably insensitive attitude to people calling to report someone’s death which, depending on the closeness of the relationship between the deceased and the caller, can serve to increase levels of distress. Corporations though, who rarely seem to want to accept responsibility for the failings in their own internal processes, will no doubt prefer to pass the buck, saying that they should have been notified earlier and then the situation would never have arisen. But that is not real life. Death can be messy and disorganised. Delays can occur when a family is left with a large amount of paperwork and other practical tasks to sort out when someone’s died, which they probably have to fit around their own already busy lives and, unsurprisingly, calling a credit card company may not be top of their list of priorities.

Of course, it is just this sort of situation that Lovingly Managed can help people avoid, either because the deceased person had the foresight to complete one of our End of Life plans so the required information is easily accessible, making the administrative burden so much easier to manage for those left behind, or because the grieving husband, wife or family of the bereaved can hand over all this kind of liaison to us to sort out on their behalf. As a third party with no emotional connection to the deceased we can deal with these kinds of interactions professionally and dispassionately and with no risk of being upset by the quality of service we receive, whatever that may be.

www.lovinglymanaged.com

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