Why you need to talk about death before it's too late | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Light Rainshower  10.9°C

Kelowna News

Why you need to talk about death before it's too late

Emily Bootle, founder of DeathCareBC
Image Credit: Submitted/DeathCareBC.ca

It may be the August long weekend with most people in Kamloops and the Okanagan spending their time swimming, golfing or wine touring.

Death, hopefully, will be far from everyone’s thoughts.

But maybe it should be the time to talk about it.

“The best time is yesterday,” Emily Bootle told iNFOnews.ca. “The second best time is now.”

Bootle was born in Kamloops and graduated from Thompson River University in 2014.

Now she’s a funeral director in Vancouver and is the founder of DeathCareBC, a company that promotes changes in the industry and strives to educate the public on the need to, not only talk about death, but to make arrangements for it.

She paid for her own funeral arrangements when she was 28.

“It’s never too early to start having the conversations,” Bootle said. “Although they can be difficult to have, the sooner you do it and the more conversations you have, the more grief you’re saving later on because you’re alleviating some of the decision-making from your recently bereaved.”

Dealing with death is not simple. Nor is it cheap.

There’s more to it than writing a will and leaving it to survivors to figure out the rest.

Buying a casket, for example, is a big purchase, costing $2,000 to $5,000.

Like any other expensive item, consumers need to research what their options are so they can make an informed decision.

“The circumstances where you’ve got someone who had a recent diagnosis or has been given a timeline – there are a lot of other emotions that are charged in that situation,” Bootle said. “It may not be the easiest thing to do or the best time to do it.”

Neither is following the shock of sudden deaths.

“We never know when we’re going to have to make a funeral arrangement but the reality is, at any moment, all of us might have to,” she said. “There’s a tiny percentage chance that, at any moment, one of us could get that call.

“At least, familiarize yourself with the funeral homes in your neighbourhood or familiarize yourself with a funeral director that you trust. Maybe you won’t know what kind of casket you want and maybe you won’t even know whether you’re doing a cremation or burial but, at least you will have been connected with a business or a person that you trust their values and their opinions and you trust that they’re going to do right by you.”

It costs money to make a will and even more to get legal advice about dispersing investments and things like selling property after death.

But, it doesn’t cost to talk to a funeral director.

And, while the stereotypical image of funeral homes is that they’re full of slick operators trying to sell the most expensive coffin going, that’s just not the reality, Bootle said.

Large funeral homes may have salespeople on staff but they sell to people pre-buying their funeral arrangements, not those reacting after the fact or suddenly dealing with an impending death.

In many ways, as a society, we are backing away from talking about death more than in the past.

Moving into a more secular society is one factor.

“When we used to have more religiosity, people talked about death a lot more,” Bootle said. “They talked about what happens after dying. It’s an entry point for conversations.”

Scientific breakthroughs that have extended life expectancies and a beauty industry that helps shield the visible signs of ageing don’t help either.

But, the legalization of assisted death in Canada six years ago is changing that dynamic.

It’s something Canadians have taken to “like fish to water” with 2.7% of deaths now being assisted. In countries where the practice is well-established, the rate is around 4%.

Vancouver Island has the highest rate in North America and, possibly, the world, Bootle said, though she didn’t know the percentage on the Island off-hand.

“The assisted dying program has actually resulted in a lot more conversations happening around preparing for death and what you want to happen when that time comes but, I think we’re still kind of stuck in this narrative,” she said. “We’re only comfortable about talking about the dollars and cents of it and a little bit less about the real experience of what it’s like for people.”

Many people are fine with joking about death in a Monty Pythonish way, she said, but they stop short of that deeper conversation.

Three years ago, Bootle made the decision to start “dismantling preconceptions and fears around death," through her DeathCareBC.

“The way that we operate, and the way that we care for families, is we try to include them as much as they’re willing and interested in being included,” she said. “So, if people want to come in and they want to dress their person or want to do their hair or paint mom’s nails, or if they want to keep somebody at home for an extended vigil or wake – basically, if they want to take a hands-on role - we will facilitate that. We have set up our business to promote that way of operating and that’s a pretty big departure from the traditional funeral industry which really prides itself with taking things on for the family.”

While DeathCareBC is a business, it makes its money from advising funeral directors. At this point, Bootle is willing to take time to talk to people about pre-death care but will recommend a death doula if people want that longer term, hands-on help.

While she’s based in Vancouver and the DeathCare approach is in its infancy, more and more funeral directors are recognizing they have to change with the times.

“There’s not a lot driving change in this industry, which is one of the frustrating things about working in it,” Bootle said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t someone in your community who is aware of this and who will do that work with you.

“Chances are they are working in a more traditional-looking funeral home so that’s why it’s so important to make the calls. It’s as simple as calling a funeral home and saying: ‘What can you tell me about pre-burial or what can you tell me about death doulas or home funerals?’ If they’ve never heard of those terms before and no one in their business has, then they’re probably not the funeral home that’s going to be able to facilitate that.”

Bootle has committed to do as much educating as she can for the next decade.

“I’m giving myself, as a death worker, until 2031 to do as much communicating as I can to the community that you need to plan ahead. You have to do it. You have to show interest in this because, by 2031, our death rate is effectively going to double because of the population boom and I’m going to be too busy.”

By that time, all the baby boomers will be over the age of 65.

“From 2032 to 2042 I’m going to be busy,” Bootle said. “I’m not going to be able to be able to help you because there are going to be too many people dying and it’s not like anybody is establishing critical infrastructure for death.”

For more on DeathCareBC, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

  • Popular kamloops News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile