Alternatives to costly funerals are available
There are alternatives to using undertaker services after death for those for whom the expense is prohibitive says Fairlie aged care nurse manager Alison Neill.
Mrs Neill who started and has run Moreh Home for the aged since 1979, has helped a number of her clients and their families to organise their own funerals when they could not afford the cost of going through an undertaker.
She ran an information evening in Fairlie last week after being asked to share her knowledge.
She says Philip Tomlinson's book Arranging a funeral: what you can do for yourselves: a South Canterbury guide was her starting point when she began helping elderly in her care, or their families, plan for funerals.
"When my brother had cancer quite a few years ago I found out how I could help the family by keeping costs down. I've become involved in several funerals here, people did things themselves."
There are several different options for people wishing to bypass the funeral director, including making their own coffin. Families had held simple services at Moreh or at their own home.
"I'm not one to do funeral directors out of business but I do want to help people who financially are limited. Some folks simply cannot afford the funeral."
Mrs Neill says the process can be done for $1500-$2000, saving thousands.
In some cases, while the families did much of it themselves, aspects of an undertaker's services were also used, especially if it was better to embalm, which was sometimes the case when cancer was the cause of death, and rapid decomposition occurred.
South Canterbury Funeral Services manager Gary Burtenshaw said the biggest hurdle for bereaved families, emotionally, was handling the body and the reason why they needed funeral directors.
"We have been asked to do the removal and looking after the registration of a person and this can be as low as $2500 but with no service included."
With a service included, the price increases to around $7000 to $8000 with coffins being a variable ranging from $1200 to $5000. People choose to hand the whole process to funeral directors because it removes the burden from them, he said.
Mrs Neill said if families wanted to make their own funeral arrangements it was something that needed to be done in advance.
Ideally the family has sat around some time in advance and made decisions, sharing out tasks among family members. It can be therapeutic for people to play a part in the arrangements.
She has a builder contact who has made simple oblong coffins, while she also helped families source low cost coffins from Christchurch. A simple coffin could cost between $200 and $600.
Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not necessary, she said. However, if the family wanted to have their loved one at home for two or three days, embalming could be a good idea. People can do the paperwork themselves, including registering the death.
If choosing a burial rather than cremation, people needed to get a plot and there were costs involved with the local council around preparing the grave and filling it in afterwards.
Also unlike weddings, anyone can officiate at a funeral as long as it is respectful. In a service she helped with, the ashes were returned and a simple service held. While people must be buried in a legal place, ashes can be scattered anywhere.