Back in about 1990 I made funeral arrangements for a 55-year old who died of a sudden heart attack. His widowed wife eventually talked to me about an idea for our funeral home which was based on the premise of what we now call “Aftercare”. At that time our funeral home did not have a formal program, nor had we really thought about it.
The widow, who later became our “Aftercare Coordinator” believed that we should be helping people — especially widows –in our community move past death and into reorganizing their new lives. I remember hiring her on a 20-hour a week basis and telling her we would contribute $400 per month into an Aftercare budget from the funeral home.
It was an unusual decision by me. . . .as I normally didn’t put money into new thoughts unless I could see the expected financial return come from it. With Aftercare I had to hope that our continued service to a family at no cost would be seen as a benefit by the community and additional services would pay for the coordinator and our budget.
It worked out great as our community saw our coordinator as an extension of our brand and the decision was more than a small help in our funeral home’s market share increase in our community. Aftercare helped define our services and continues to do so in our community today.
The experience also marked my first experience with “extending” a service line of a company. Even though we had no revenue source from this service line, the decision extended what we did as a business from Preneed to At Need to Monuments and now continued a service with that family that was no longer defined as ending at the time of a monument purchase. In essence, whatever our cost for Aftercare was, it was more than made up for by extending and deepening our relationship with families that we had served.
If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a big advocate for extending one’s service line to bring in more sources of revenue. I’ve been Chairman of a non-profit nursing home that has greatly extended our service lines in areas that are purchased well prior to a nursing home stay. . . . we have 55 and over health facilities, independent living communities, assisted living communities, a home health care division, a post-hospital in-patient therapy program, and even a hospice division. All of those service lines provide revenue, and with the exception of the hospice care, acquaint clients with our brand prior to ever needing a nursing home. As a matter of fact, I’m guessing that our nursing home revenue is now probably less than 20% of system revenue when not too long ago it was 100% — prior to the service line extensions it was the only revenue we had.
So, I was more than interested when I came across this article from Forbes the other day. The article introduced me to “Papa – Family on Demand”. The article talks about this business of senior companionship that has raised over $240 million in venture capital and is a going concern today.
Turns out, according to the article, that more than 28% of the United States senior population live alone and studies indicate that social isolation can have serious downstream effects to people’s health. With that being said, it will not surprise you that “Papa” has signed major insurance companies to pay for their services with the growing recognition that “a person’s health isn’t limited to the doctor’s office.”
Workers for Papa, which they call Papa Pal’s, are paid an hourly rate of $20-25 per hour. The company has, at present, about 25,000 “Papa Pals” who support day-to-day activities of older aged community members by doing things like driving to a doctor’s appointment or preparing a meal. Interestingly enough, bathing and toileting have been removed from Papa’s categories of care and that has empowered a whole new category of workers who do not need specialized training. All are well screened, but now do not need a background in health care.
Here’s another item I noticed in the article that may make this type of service a possible funeral home service line extension at some point, “. . . . the federal government changed the rules in 2019 so that companionship and social support services could be reimbursed with Medicare dollars.”
Unlike my Aftercare example of a service without revenue supporting it, does that thought support the idea of a funeral home offering this type of service in their community, if they can be paid for with Medicare dollars? There is a lot to look into, including liability issues, but my guess is that just like my Aftercare experience, a funeral home that does offer senior social services in its community may be able to improve on its brand and lead those clients from this support service into their other services, such as preneed, and more, when the time comes.
Just another one of my thoughts from a 10,000 feet perspective.
Here is the website for “Papa – Family On-Demand”
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Author behind “Ask a Mortician YouTube channel tells Springfield to be “Death Positive”. Springfield News-Leader (MO)
- SC funeral home directors “re-imagined” services during covid. Miami Herald (FL)
- Service Corporation declares cash dividend and increases share repurchase authorization. Cision PR Newswire
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