Archive for Monday, August 9, 2010

Death falls on hard times

Recession’s toll compounds grief seen by funeral directors

August 9, 2010


Funeral costs have families weighing options

The number of people choosing to cremate their loved ones after death has risen 10 percent since 2004. The trend also applies to Lawrence residents. Enlarge video

The bad economy has affected nearly every sector of the business community, and the business of death is no exception.

Concerns about money are obvious in nearly every choice family members make when dealing with the death of a loved one.

Casket style, headstone size, and even the time of the day the service is held — one held during business hours is cheaper — all come into play as local funeral homes see more struggling families.

In some cases, families come into the Lawrence Chapel Oaks Cremation and Funeral Service with no money, said Jake Barnett, funeral director.

“’We have absolutely nothing. What do we do?’” Barnett said he hears from such families.

Those caught in tough financial times have to balance paying the bills with providing family members a dignified funeral, said Larry McElwain, funeral director at Warren-McElwain Mortuary and Cremation Services.

“They’ve been living with more devastating circumstances,” he said. A very basic funeral and burial starts at around $3,000, though most cost much more. It's an expense that can break the budget of those dealing with a death, McElwain said.

A cheaper option, cremation, is becoming more popular in Kansas and across the country. A cremation can save a family at least a few thousand dollars, and basic cremation services can be performed for about $1,000.

The percentage of cremations in Kansas has risen steadily from about 24 percent in 2004 to 32 percent in 2008, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Projected numbers are for that number to rise to more than 44 percent by 2015.

While someone who doesn’t want cremation likely wouldn’t change his or her mind based on cost, it’s something more families are considering, said Bart Yost, president of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home and Crematory.

“People definitely think more along those lines,” said Yost, whose business has a cremation rate of more than 40 percent. However, the cremation rates for the Lawrence community have always been higher than national and state numbers, he said, because of the political and social makeup of the area.

The best advice Yost gives to families is to plan ahead, something he’s seeing less and less often. Funds that people traditionally saved for funerals have been used on other necessities.

“A lot of these people have gone through that money,” he said.

That has made an impact on the bottom line of local funeral homes, which have found themselves scaling back as well.

Yost said his business has cut back on some of the things that might have done in the past, such as painting the facility, in order to keep pace with the economic downturn.

“I haven’t raised my prices in two and a half years because I know people are struggling,” he said.


kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm surprised this article did not mention natural burials.

Shaun Hittle 7 years, 4 months ago

The Big B, I think you're right that my language on the cost is misleading. What I meant to get across is that $3000 is probably the absolutely cheapest way to do it, though that would be in the extreme. I think the way I have it phrased makes it sound like that's what funerals cost, when in fact many are much more expensive. Thanks for the catch and I'll update it some online.

Shaun Hittle LJW Reporter

Keith 7 years, 4 months ago

Death can't afford to take a holiday?

1029 7 years, 4 months ago

When my brother died in April we just took the boat out to Clinton and used a cinder block to sink the body down to the bottom. We done the same with my uncle when he passed back in 2008.

Jimbecile 7 years, 4 months ago

Dignified burial? you mean if I lived a superstitious life, and somehow think it matters? Grind us all into bonemeal. Buzzards gotta eat, too!

jehovah_bob 7 years, 4 months ago

I'd like to be dismembered and cast into the sea with my executor's address and phone tattooed to each piece with a note saying "If found, please return to xxxxx for reward."

Matt Torres 7 years, 4 months ago

Assuming anyone wants it and it's still useable, I want my every single part of me to go toward some kind of research or organ donation. I understand the need for the ceremonial stuff surrounding death, but honestly, when it comes to what happens to your body...why would it possibly be a big deal? If you believe in some sort of soul that leaves the body either to go to heaven or be reincarnated, why is it so important to seal that lump of dead flesh up in a big fancy metal box? And obviously if you believe that when we die we just die, there's no need to spend so much on putting yourself into the ground.

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