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Great Falls funeral homes adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 4:04 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 18:04:26-04

Funeral homes in Great Falls have had to make changes due to restrictions on social gatherings caused by COVID-19.

Schnider Funeral Home & Cremation Services and O'Connor Funeral Home & Crematory in Great Falls are doing their best to provide families support and safety while restrictions are in place.

Schnider Funeral Home & Cremation Services Owner Steve Schnider said funerals will be limited to small, graveside services of a few family members. “Right now because of COVID-19 we’re trying to restrict any large gatherings of people,” Schnider said,”Anything that we’re planning now is just for family, not for the public.”

Since friends aren’t able to attend funerals, the funeral home offers the public the opportunity to view services online: ”What we’ve tried to do though is when we can actually video tape the service at the graveside or whatever it may be we put it on the website so people can actually see the service and then actually on the website sign the page for condolences for the family,” Schnider said.

While burials can’t be postponed, Schnider recommends rescheduling memorial services for a later date when all friends and family members can attend: “I think it’d be better if you postponed and waited till they're able to attend so you can have all your family together -to give them the opportunity to be with you and grieve with you and help you walk through this difficult time,” Schnider said.

Although Schnider sympathizes with families who wish to memorialize their loved ones immediately, he feels it’s in the best interest of his clients and staff to take preventative measures. These include separating staff from incoming families: “We’re trying to keep our staff separated so they are healthy as well and trying to give limited access to the funeral home to pick up death certificates, to go over a little bit of information...but to try to keep the administrative staff separate from all the folks that come into the funeral home,” Schnider said.

The staff is also taking care to sanitize to the best of their abilities: “Once any visitation for the family is done -because we limit any visitation to family members- we disinfect the room and wipe it down so it’s safe for the next family and for our staff as well,” Schnider said.

Although the funeral homes are not available for indoor memorial services, O’Connor Funeral Home & Crematory is being used as the primary site for clients, where viewings and meetings can take place. Schnider Funeral Home & Cremation Services will only be used for brief exchanges (i.e. pick up death certificates).

In order to minimize clients' contact with the facility, staff will be delivering forms like legal documents to their legal residence.

Schnider said in a news release on Friday:

These are very trying times for those who have lost a loved one, especially with the inability to memorialize their lives with family and friends.

We are taking each loss with great concern as we are part of the healthcare industry and our duty is to help protect the public from future spread of COVID-19. To that end, when our assistance is needed, we will be gathering the majority of information from the families via the phone and internet. For signatures, we would like the opportunity to bring the documents to you thus keeping our contact to a minimum to assure your family’s safety. We have decided to meet families, when necessary, at O’Connor Funeral Home, at 2425 8th Avenue North because of the large space available there. We request that you call ahead before coming to either funeral Home so we are able to eliminate as much interaction between various families.

Our licensed morticians and trained staff use every precaution to protect you as well as their coworkers. We remain vigilant about cleaning our facilities, social distancing and ensuring that we follow CDC, state and local guidelines and requirements.

If our staff can be of assistance, please contact us at 406-727-1368 for Schnider Funeral Home or 406-453-7257 for O’Connor Funeral Home.