A funeral can be a confusing experience for someone with dementia. Social distancing and other safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic may add to this. Learn how you can adapt to funeral restrictions and ways to support someone with dementia in attendance.
Sadly, some people who contract coronavirus will die. Due to government advice on social distancing measures, it’s likely that you can’t say goodbye in the way that you would have wanted and planned.
Alzheimer’s Society is here for you during these difficult times. We want to make sure you know the funeral regulations, other ways you can commemorate your loved ones during social distancing, and how to support people with dementia to go to funerals safely during the pandemic.
My loved one has recently died. Are they allowed a funeral?
Yes, your loved one can still have a funeral service. But there are government restrictions on funeral services at the moment:
- While funerals can no longer include a church service, you can have a short service at the graveside or crematorium.
Limitations on attendees
- Mourners can attend but they must be limited to members of the person’s household and close family (or close friends if they are unable to attend) and must follow social distancing rules.
Be in good health
- No one with coronavirus symptoms can attend in person. If you’re self-isolating because you are in a vulnerable group or because someone in your household has had coronavirus symptoms, you can attend but you must take steps to ensure social distancing.
After the funeral
- There can be no gathering – as there would often be after a service – even at the family home.
A funeral director will be able to advise you further. Please keep checking the latest government advice on how to manage a service during the pandemic.
Three ways to adapt to funeral restrictions
These restrictions can be upsetting if you or your friends or relatives are not able to attend the funeral service. Thankfully, we live in times where technology can keep people connected.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can commemorate your loved one until a time when shared mourning can safely take place:
1. Discuss the option of online participation
Speak to the funeral director about how mourners can participate in the service remotely. There might be an option to watch online via ‘live streaming’, or the service may be recorded.
2. Make plans for after the pandemic
With your family and friends, start to make plans for a celebration or memorial service to take place after social restrictions are lifted.
3. Create an online memorial as a tribute
Online platforms, such as Much Loved, allow families to light virtual candles, upload photos and videos and leave messages of love and condolence. For families who would like to support Alzheimer’s Society, tributes can be set up through an Online Tribute Fund.
Keeping someone with dementia safe at a funeral service
Someone with dementia may have certain cognitive impairments that affects their ability to understand loss and funerals. This is likely to be more confusing during the pandemic as the normal rules to funerals don’t apply.
If the person with dementia would like to go the funeral, you should focus on supporting them to follow the important rules to keep them and others safe, particularly about handwashing and social distancing. Some things you should consider are:
- Encouraging them not to shake hands or hug other attendees.
- Keeping hand sanitiser with you and making sure they’re not touching their face or mouth.
- How to explain why guests are wearing facemasks or why the seats are so far apart.
You may find that the person you care for is in denial about coronavirus. This is quite a common issue. The most important thing is to reassure them that this is something we all face together. They are not alone.
We’re here to support you
Please read our guidance on grief, loss and bereavement.
Remember, there are charities and support services available for you during these times.