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How Funeral Homes Are Adapting to Provide Bariatric Cremations

Bariatric cremation is becoming more common, but many funeral homes aren’t equipped to provide the service. Here’s how funeral homes are adapting.
What Crematoriums Are Doing to Accommodate the Obesity Epidemic
What Crematoriums Are Doing to Accommodate the Obesity Epidemic

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We recently discussed what people should know about bariatric cremation as the obesity rate in the U.S. climbs to an all-time high. As of May 2024, 39.6% of Americans are considered obese. Over 9% of people are morbidly obese. 

The obesity epidemic is directly impacting the funeral industry, which is having to adapt to accommodate the needs of a large segment of the population. There’s even a name for the service – bariatric cremation. Cremating obese individuals is a major logistical issue, but one that has to be handled in respectful and efficient ways.

So, how are funeral homes adapting to accommodate bariatric cremation? From the equipment that’s used to the personnel providing the service, here are the necessary changes that Cremation.Green and other funeral homes are making.

Expanding Retort Capacity

In some cases, bigger cremation chambers are needed to handle larger body sizes and weights. For example, many standard retorts have a max weight limit of 500 pounds. The openings and chamber itself also need to be wider and taller. Of course, incorporating larger cremation chambers could also mean having to make adjustments to the facility to allow for the bigger equipment.

Equipment Modifications to Prevent Fires

One of the biggest risks associated with bariatric cremation is a higher likelihood of a fire within the chamber. This is because higher heat is needed and fatty tissue can be combustible. These intense blazes highlight the need for specifically designed cremation equipment since conventional cremation chambers may not be able to safely manage the fire outbreaks. In the very least equipment modification is usually needed.

Facility Reinforcement

Accommodating bariatric cremation involves a comprehensive approach that extends beyond simply providing a larger cremation chamber. Different parts of the facility itself need to be modified as well. Facility strengthening in the form of stronger gurneys, heavy-duty refrigeration units and reinforced floors are crucial for handling the load of heavier weights.

Adding the Their Transportation Fleet

Transporting the body to the crematorium is part of the cremation process. But like retort chambers, some hearses and transport vehicles might not be able to handle the size or weight of someone who’s morbidly obese. Funeral homes may need to expand their transportation fleet to include a larger vehicle or van that can accommodate larger bodies. 

Specialized Training for Staff

Because certain safety precautions need to be taken, a crematorium’s staff needs to have specialized training. Training staff on how to properly handle a body that is morbidly obese ensures every case is managed safely with professionalism and sensitivity. Extra staff may also be necessary to ensure the dignified and careful handling of the deceased throughout the cremation process.

Creating and Implementing Safety Procedures

Creating safety procedures goes hand-in-hand with training personnel. Having established safety procedures is crucial for ensuring everyone involved understands the risks and how to mitigate them so no one is hurt during the cremation of morbidly obese individuals. 

Getting Special Permits

Because of the increased risk and potential for creating more environmental hazards from excessive smoke and emissions, a special permit may be required for bariatric cremation. There are also extra regulations that must be followed, which the crematorium will have to adjust for. 

Extending Cremation Timelines

The cremation process for morbidly obese individuals takes additional time compared to a conventional service. The extra time is required to ensure complete reduction of the body to nothing but bone. It’s a factor that also impacts the cost and has to be accounted for before the process begins.

Setting Client Expectations and Awareness

An important part of a funeral director’s job is communicating with the deceased’s family. In that communication we must set realistic expectations and make sure clients are fully aware of what’s involved. Families must be informed of any special accommodations that are needed and potential added costs that may accompany bariatric cremation services.

Personalized Ancillary Services

Funeral service personalization is another trend that’s on the rise. In terms of bariatric cremation, some funeral homes are beginning to offer products like larger urns and caskets. It’s a reflection that the death-care industry as a whole is adapting to meet the needs of families of obese individuals.

Key Steps for Safe Bariatric Cremation 

A successful bariatric cremation involves more than just understanding the safety precautions and investing in the right equipment. Crematoriums should also follow certain procedures to accommodate for bariatric cremation as well. 

Considering the overall impact bariatric bodies have on the cremation process, below are key steps that should be taken to make sure it’s safe:

  1. Measure the chamber to make sure there’s at least 1-inch clearance all around.
  2. Make sure the retort is cool. You can either wait 12 hours between cremations or schedule a bariatric case as the first cremation of the day. 
  3. Heat the chambers following manufacturer directions and environmental regulations.
  4. Load the casket in reverse so that the major part of the load isn’t closest to the burner and you have more control. 
  5. Monitor the equipment to watch out for overheating. New cremation chambers have automatic temperature regulators, but someone still needs to keep an eye on the gauges.
  6. Turn off the burner once the remains have started to be cremated. Only turn the igniter back on if the temperature drops.
  7. The temperature in the secondary chamber can rise above the set point and cause excessive emissions. If this happens, turn off the secondary chamber’s burner until the temperature drops to the set point.
  8. Because of the higher temperatures inside, more time is needed for the cool down period before the cremains can be handled. 

Through these steps, cremation services can honor the deceased’s last wishes regardless of their size, offering compassion and dignity in their final farewell.

Evolving to Meet the Death Care Needs of Everyone

The truth is, some funeral homes simply don’t have the resources to cremate individuals that are over 400 or so pounds – but more are making the necessary adjustments. Crematoriums that make modifications to accommodate obese individuals demonstrate their commitment to honor every life with respect and care, irrespective of body size. 

Cremation.Green is one of the funeral homes that are changing how we operate to meet the evolving demands of clients. We welcome the opportunity to help families that are in need of eco-friendly bariatric cremation in Texas. Our team is available to provide assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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