Archive for December 2021

Green Burial: The Option of a Natural Return to the Earth

Posted on Dec 16, 2021

Green Burial

“I didn’t realize it was an option!” - actual green burial proponent

For most people making their final arrangements, there seem to be only three options for their earthly remains: 

  • Traditional Burial

This is the process by which a body is embalmed with chemicals, prepared for viewing, placed in a hardwood or metal casket, and buried within a concrete vault or liner in a landscaped cemetery with an ornately engraved headstone.

  • Cremation

This is the process by which the body is placed in a cremation retort which is raised to over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. What is left of the body is ash and bone fragments, which are pulverized in a blender-like device called a “cremulator.” These cremated remains are then returned to the family. 

  • Donation to Science

This is the process by which the body is given to a medical institution where it is dissected and examined by medical students before it is ultimately buried or cremated. 

For most, these options are suitable as they feel that there are few other options. 

For others, these options can seem unsettling, unnecessary, overly expensive, or unnatural. Fortunately for these individuals, a “new” third choice for body disposition is gaining popularity—green burial. 

What is Green Burial? 

Green burial—also known as “natural burial” or “eco burial”—is the process by which a body is laid to rest as naturally as possible. The bodies are typically not embalmed—usually only washed and dressed in very simple, biodegradable clothing. They are then placed in either a biodegradable casket (usually made of untreated wood or woven wicker) or even a sewn shroud, and placed directly in a shallow grave—often only three or four feet deep without any vault or grave liner. These graves are dug in special “green cemeteries”—areas left unlandscaped, containing wild grasses, trees, and wildlife. 

In many ways, green burial is seen as a return to the way most burials were conducted before the rise of the modern mortuary industry. Graveside funeral services often resemble that of earlier pioneers—allowing friends and family members to be as hands-on as they choose.

What is the Appeal of Green Burial? 

Environmentally Friendly

The earliest proponents of green burial were environmentalists looking for a more ecologically responsible way to return to the earth after death. 

Modern traditional burial not only requires the extensive clearing of natural lands to make way for heavily manicured cemeteries but also requires vast resources that are ultimately buried. Over an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of toxic embalming fluid is buried every year as well enough metal (in the form of caskets) to build the Golden Gate Bridge, and cement (in the form of burial vaults) to build another highway between New York and Michigan. 

While cremation seems like the more environmentally friendly option, the process requires substantial energy and emits tons of carbon dioxide as well as other hazardous fumes such as mercury from dental work. 

Green burial, on the other hand, has been used as a method of wildlife preservation. The bodies of the buried feed the earth—nourishing plant life and soil conditions in the area. 

Respectful and Nondestructive

The practice of green burial appeals to many who find other options disrespectful of the remains of the deceased. 

Modern burial typically involves embalming a body—the process of replacing the blood with embalming fluid—sometimes using sharpened spear-like instruments to puncture the internal organs to remove excess fluid. 

Cremation is considered forbidden by observant Jewish and Islamic cultures, as it as seen as disrespectful of the body. 

Green burial seeks to respectfully return the body to the earth as naturally and directly as possible. 


Short of direct cremation, green burial is among the most economic option for laying a body to rest. Modern sealed caskets can range from the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars—along with the cost of embalming, concrete burial vaults, cemetery maintenance fees, and elaborate grave markers—leaving the final price tag anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 or even higher. 

Due to the lack of most of those elements, the cost of green burial can be a fraction of the cost. Plots in green cemeteries range from $1,000-$2,000. Burial shrouds can cost as little as $200. Funeral service costs may even be reduced as many family members and friends may elect to take on some of the responsibilities of a cemetery and funeral director themselves. Such tasks range from the care of the body to the digging of the shallow grave. Many funeral services have cropped up that aim to assist families in any duties they may not feel comfortable or capable performing. 

Is Green Burial Even Legal? 

Green burial is completely legal in all 50 states in the USA. Cemeteries may have regulations that require a burial vault and other items for burial on their sites, but such requirements are merely required cemetery policies and not law. The requirement for vaults or grave liners in modern cemeteries has more to do with preserving the landscaping than anything else.

What is the Downside of Green Burial? 

As it stands right now, the only apparent downside to green burial is the limited availability of green cemeteries and funeral directors with experience in assisting with green burial arrangements. Green cemeteries are typically areas of untouched land or adjoining sections of existing cemeteries that have been set aside for green burial. Still, as the popularity of green burial continues to grow, more funeral services and cemeteries have arisen to meet the growing demand.

How Can I Find a Green Burial Funeral Service or Green Cemetery?

To provide consumers with additional burial options and quality control measures, the Green Burial Council was formed. On their website, they provide a full listing of approved green burial funeral services and cemeteries.

Experience of a Green Funeral

“My wife’s great-grandmother and grandmother—mother and daughter—passed away in hospice care on the same day. They had lived together for over 30 years. They were lively, dignified ladies who lived vibrant lives, but wanted modest final sendoffs. Our family decided to honor them with a double green funeral and green burial. They were washed, clothed in simple gowns, and placed in white burial shrouds. We had a graveside funeral service in the forest with massive trees providing shade. We laid them side-by-side in a single, widened grave as family members and friends showered with them flower pedals. We passed shovels around with dozens of loved ones each delicately covering them with earth. More than feeling like we had them buried, we felt like we buried them ourselves—returning them to the earth, the bosom of their ancestors, and the embrace of their Creator.”

 - Green burial participant

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Should I Bring My Loved One With Dementia to Our Family Holiday Gathering?

Posted on Dec 16, 2021

Dementia and public gatherings

The decision to bring a loved one with dementia should not be rushed. 

As the holidays approach, we have the tendency to want to include all of our family for gatherings. Not wanting to exclude anyone, you may also want to include a loved one with dementia who is currently housed in a care facility—either for their dementia or possibly a hospice care facility. However, this can raise many questions—both logistical and emotional. 

  • Will they be comfortable in such a setting? 
  • Will the rest of the family members be comfortable with their presence? 
  • Will this mean that I completely miss out on the gathering to meet their needs? 
  • What happens when it’s time to return them to the facility and they refuse?
  • Will they even remember the family gathering?

While these are good items to consider, it is also important to look for indications that this loved one may not be up for such a gathering. 

Red Flags for Attendance

Red Flag 1: If your loved one has a previous habit of voicing their displeasure with their facility. 

If your loved one with dementia has a habit of speaking extensively about how much they dislike their facility, these are not to be considered one-off comments. They are expressing a feeling they have that they may wish to express at a family gathering in the form of active resistance.

Red Flag 2: You already have trouble returning your loved one with dementia to their facility after visiting your home or other locations.

If your loved one has shown extreme hesitancy, frustration, or even resistance to returning to their care center after visiting your house or another location, that means that these feelings or behaviors may be intensified upon leaving a family gathering—even while still at the said family gathering. 

Red Flag 3: They have stated that they simply do not want to attend this family gathering or do not understand the concept. 

While you may feel that seeing some family members and getting out of the care facility may be in their best interest, fight the “you’ll thank me later” urge—thinking that they’ll come to enjoy the experience. They may, but they’ve also expressed that they do not wish to go and you should respect that wish by not pressuring them to attend. 

Logistics to Consider

If your loved one with dementia has not voiced displeasure with their care facility or resistance to returning to it, you may feel that it would be appropriate to take them to a family gathering for the holidays. While this is a valid decision that may end up being wonderful, it is important to plan ahead in case their mood sours—especially when it is time for them to return to the care facility. 

How will you make leaving enticing? 

Let’s say that your father has dementia, has expressed no ill feelings toward his care facility, and you wish to take him along to a family gathering. That’s wonderful! However, when it comes time to return and you say, “Ok, dad—it’s time to go back home,” he refuses. What should you do now? 

This is when it is important to make the prospect of leaving the family gathering enticing with something he likes. 

Perhaps instead of saying it is time to go home: 

  • Have a family member say they want to show your father their new car
  • Tell him that you wanted to take him to pick up some ice cream
  • Tell him that you want to show him the pretty changing leaves
  • Tell him that you’re all loading up in the car to see the neighborhood holiday lights

The important thing is to find something that will appeal to your loved one—something enticing enough to get him to willingly leave the situation. While it is important to not lie to him, simply create the journey home into a series of agreeable steps until he has reached his destination instead of one abrupt trip back to a place he may not want to go. 

Realizing the Why of Their AttendanceThough it may almost seem harsh to consider out of context, but before you decide that your loved one should attend this holiday family gathering, you will need a firm and simple reasoning why. This reason or lack of reason is not meant to more easily disqualify their attendance, but rather to ensure that this reason is being fulfilled. 

Not often enough good reasons: 

  • “Well, it’s the holidays.”
  • “Well, they’re family members.” 
  • “I’d feel terrible if I didn’t bring them.”

All of these reasons are forgetting the most important contributing factor to this decision: your loved one. Instead of considering the benefits to them, such reasons are usually your reason why they should attend. In many instances, such events outside of the typical routine of someone with dementia can leave them confused and frustrated—not just immediately following the event, but also days or even weeks later.

However, if you feel that this experience may actually benefit their overall state, a family event may very well be a great idea. 

But how can you know? 

How to Consider if a Family Gathering is Good For Them 

When trying to determine if a holiday family gathering will be a good experience for them, it is important to consider the past, present, and future of their state. 

  • How have they responded to going out and needing to return to their care center in the past?
  • Will you be able to provide adequate care for them for the entire duration of the experience?
  • Will this family gathering be positive for them or will it likely only cause confusion? 
  • How likely are they to be receptive to returning? 
  • How do you plan to entice them back to the care facility if they become confused, hesitant, or resistant? 
  • How is this family gathering as well as their return to care expected to leave them feeling in the days following it? Happy? Confused? Agitated?
  • Why do you think they should attend—for you, your family, or for their own wellbeing? 

There are several different aspects to consider when making the decision to bring a family member with dementia to a family gathering this season. Hopefully, this piece gives you a few more items and scenarios to consider for the health and happiness of your loved one. 


Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.