No one wants to think about death, much less plan for it.
People put off planning their own funeral for a number of reasons – youthfulness, finances, fear – but they shouldn't avoid preparing for the unavoidable.
The vast majority of Canadians say preplanning their funeral would "significantly reduce pain and hardship" on their family and is preferable to leaving decisions to grieving loved ones, yet only 9 per cent have actually made such arrangements.
That's according to a new survey, which sheds light on the taboo subject of death. It comes at a time when Canada is undergoing a huge demographic shift, one that will see an increase in the number of deaths in the coming years. Statistics Canada projects that in the next half century, the number of deaths per year will roughly double. Statscan counted 252,561 deaths in Canada in 2010-11.
Sue Lasher, president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, said the new poll shows a "shocking" lack of funeral preplanning – that is, making arrangements before one dies.
"[Death's] still a topic that a lot of people don't want to talk about even though it's the right thing to do," she said.
Ms. Lasher, who is also manager of Foster's Garden Chapel in Calgary, said family members should be involved in the preplanning process so they're not caught off guard by the arrangements that have been made, but also so they can have input in the services before they are emotional when a loved one has died.
Finally, for those who prefer to think of the positives of pre-planning, another big reason: "Potentially, there could be huge cost savings," Ms. Lasher pointed out.
Research Now's online poll of 1,167 Canadians, which was commissioned by Everest Funeral Package, LLC , a Houston, Tex.-based funeral planning services company, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.
It also found that just 36 per cent of Canadians had planned a funeral. Among those respondents who had, three-quarters said they did it only after the loved one had passed away. Consumers – usually women – lean toward preplanning the older they get, and generally, those who have done preplanning have talked about their preferences with loved ones, according to the poll.
Respondents who had not done preplanning said they considered themselves too young (38 per cent), didn't want to talk about death (28 per cent), were procrastinating (26 per cent) or had financial reasons (21 per cent).
When asked about the nature of their concerns about funeral planning, the most common answer was not being able to afford it (46 per cent), followed by not knowing where to start (37 per cent) and fears of being taken advantage of (36 per cent).
Mark Duffey, president and chief executive officer of Everest, which has consultants who do the funeral planning leg work for funerals in Canada and the U.S., said the survey was an "eye-opener," especially with respect to finances. Mr. Duffey said he has personal experience with the importance of preplanning. Even though arrangements were made before his 84-year-old father died last year, Mr. Duffey found himself struggling through his grief to cope with other details.
"You can't imagine anyone who was more planned than me," he said, "Yet, I just found myself walking in slow motion. ... It was so much harder to make a decision. Everything was just harder."
"We all know it's going to happen, but [some people think] if we put it down in writing then it probably will happen," Ms. Lasher said. "They're putting off the inevitable."