Lima-area funeral homes alter services for families

By Tara Jones -

LIMA — The services that area funeral homes offer grieving families are beginning to be significantly impacted by CDC gathering recommendations as a result of the new coronavirus.

Although funeral services have not been directly halted by Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order, locals seem to be taking the recommendations to heart.

As of March 22, the Ohio Funeral Director’s Association set guidelines limiting funeral services strictly to include close family members to keep gatherings at 10 people or fewer. Twenty-one area funeral homes signed a letter to the editor published in The Lima News honoring these commitments.

“In accordance with the governor’s recommendations, the undersigned funeral homes, have until further notice, adopted those guidelines for your protection,” the letter states. “We stand united in doing our part to compassionately care for and serve our community. We appreciate your cooperation in working with us in honoring your loved one in ways that are meaningful and that also take into consideration current federal and state guidelines, regarding public health and safety.”

In a separate letter, Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home in Lima explained it will encourage limited gatherings but will not forbid them.

“So far, all of our families have been very understanding and proactive as well,” explained Andrew Gearhart of Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home and Crematory in Van Wert. “They’re all in tune to what’s going on. It’s not like we’re having to sell them on what we are recommending and what the state is recommending.”

Alspach-Gearhart is one of several funeral homes now offering live and recorded webcasting of all funerals on their websites, as services are mainly limited to immediate family. Despite the understanding families have of the circumstances, Gearhart said it’s still been a difficult process for the families.

“Everybody grieves differently, but the families haven’t had the opportunity to grieve publicly in the fact that they haven’t had the opportunity to speak with their friends and their family face to face,” he explained. “There’s a bunch of avenues with technology of giving your sympathies, but it’s still not the same as face to face and the importance of the funeral ceremony for all involved.

“For us as a business, it’s two-fold — dealing with families and keeping not only them safe, but us and our employees,” Gearhart said. “Then also there’s the concern on the medical side of things. To our knowledge, we haven’t gotten anybody who has died because of the coronavirus or was infected, but we have to be vigilant and protective when dealing with anybody that way as well.”

He explained the preparation for caring for those who died of COVID-19. There aren’t many additional safety steps that need to be taken.

“I guess you could say yes (we are preparing), but that’s something that is part of our day-to-day routine anyways,” he explained. “Maybe at times like this our senses are a little heightened to the fact that there are things out there, but we just have to be smarter, more careful and take our time. We already have our preventative protective equipment, it’s just a matter of being smart like we typically should be doing.”

By Tara Jones

Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.

Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.

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