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shutterstock_1518039839.jpgWhenever one hears the terms “mortician,” or “funeral director,” the image our mind conjures is that of a black-clad male figure. However, since 2017, there has been a marked increase in women taking up the mantle and changing the industry.

Historically, caring for the deceased and preparing their bodies was considered women’s work. Going as far back as Ancient Greece or even the Civil War, women conducted the death rites, primarily in the home. Shrouding women or midwives would cleanse the body and prepare it for burial. Women were seen as more intuitive and emotionally sensitive to the bereaved’s needs, making them a more natural fit for the role. It was only when funerals and embalming became a career in the late 19th century that women were forced back into traditional domestic roles.

In a business that has historically been slow to embrace change, the wave of women working in funeral homes is changing the stereotype of the man in the somber black suit. They have often had to fight social stigmas and old-fashioned mentalities: women can’t lift coffins, women shouldn’t be exposed to embalming chemical while pregnant, etc. Despite the prejudice, women have continued to enter deathcare, especially as the industry itself is currently shifting the way it approaches funerals.


shutterstock_171030227.jpg“We’re in the middle of a battle, and we need reinforcements,” the Governor said in his call to action. “Come back and join the fight.”

Illinois was among those states counting on retired (or even soon-to-be retired) medical personnel to stave the onslaught of COVID-19 cases in hospitals and to administer much needed vaccines. In early 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker slashed through the bureaucratic red tape by waiving state licensing fees, expediting license renewals and extending soon-to-be-expired licenses for healthcare professionals.

(Active license reinstatement waivers are scheduled to expire May 31, 2022, per the 12/20/21 IDFPR Proclamation.)


shutterstock_344377493.jpgWhile nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals have been heavily exposed to compassion fatigue during the wave after wave of COVID-19, funeral directors have not been among those studied. Yet, those working in deathcare have been subject to the same risks for compassion fatigue as other caregivers.

 Compassion fatigue is an emotional and physical drain for those working closely with anyone dealing with pain and/or suffering. It consists of two main factors: burnout and secondary trauma. Burnout can come through frustration with the work environment. Compassion fatigue has also been called a burnout specific to caregivers. Secondary trauma refers to the repeated exposure to painful details of the lives of patients, which can be intensively exhausting for caregivers. Failing to recognize the symptoms and get some form of mental care can lead to more serious mental health issues such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Those on the front line of COVID-19 have already seen this as a recurring phenomenon among caregivers in stressful situations. Among those ranks are funeral directors who often fall by the wayside and are given less attention than their medical healthcare counterparts.

 Funeral directors have been interfacing with bereaving families throughout the pandemic. On top of the pain of losing a loved one, many traditions, ceremonies, and gatherings have been denied to the grieving. Showing empathy to clients is a core part of the deathcare business, but COVID-19 has changed the way many funeral directors approach their job, being deprived of even extending a comforting hand. Along with wanting to provide strength to those in mourning, deathcare workers must balance their professionalism with the same fears the general public has: fear of contagion, fear of carrying the virus home to loved ones, fear for their co-workers. There are relatively few studies on the mental health of funeral directors. The studies that have been performed, showed that funeral directors run a higher risk of developing mental health problems like depression. The pandemic has caused cumulative exposure to stressful incidents, a high number of funerals, longer working hours, and the many difficulties to maintain the quality of work as before all may have an impact on mental health.


shutterstock_1893274216.jpgSnow brings with it plenty of fun events: skiing, sledding, building snowmen, snowball fights. However, Veterinarians say it can also bring with it serious health concerns to pets, especially dogs. If you’ve ever seen a dog hopping or limping down a snowy sidewalk, whimpering at the heels of their human, the culprit is very likely rock salt (sodium chloride).

Chicago winters are especially harsh. We vacillate between warm winter days and polar vortex storms. When the snow begins, people are quick to throw down the rock salt. It is a necessary evil. Rock salt helps melt down snow and give traction. As it melts, the salt-water slush resulting from the melting of snow the salt crystals can attach to the animal’s paw pads and cause irritation and burning. It can also lead to inflammation, soreness, and bacterial infections.

Rock salt is doubly dangerous to dogs. They may end up licking their paws in an effort to remove the discomfort between their paws. Ingesting rock salt can cause vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, erratic behavior, disorientation, extreme tiredness, an unnaturally intense third, or excessive drooling or salivating. If you see any of these warning signs, call your vet if you suspect there is a problem. Your vet will likely deliver intravenous medication/fluids and monitor your pet to ensure the condition does not worsen. In extreme cases, dogs could even slip into comas or die as a result of ingesting too much sodium chloride.


shutterstock_1251170581.jpgLast spring, Illinois dispensary workers and consumers noticed there was mold in a popular brand of pre-rolled marijuana joints. State regulators determined that numerous batches were potentially contaminated. The Chicago Sun Times “watchdog” section broke the story on December 10, 2021.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is the licensing agency for Illinois marijuana dispensaries and their employees. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Act) provides for the controlled legalization of adult-use cannabis in Illinois. Pursuant to the Act, IDFPR is charged with implementing and administrating multiple aspects of the program, including the licensing and oversight of dispensing organizations, dispensary agents, and agent education providers.

Despite its statutorily mandated oversight responsibilities, IDFPR never told the public about the mold infestation. Instead, IDFPR opted to send an email to dispensary operators which discretely instructed them to quarantine a cannabis flower product made by a certain producer. Dispensaries were left with a quagmire of compliance and liability issues which were compounded by IDFPR’s inaction and lack of guidance.

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