Keeping our sick loved ones at home is becoming a more common occurrence.  Consequently, our society is experiencing more deaths of loved ones in the home.  This can be very upsetting, especially if you don’t know what to do when it happens.  While we can never be fully prepared for the death of a loved one, planning ahead does help.

What to do when the Death is Unexpected

If the death of your loved one is sudden or unexpected, you need to call 911 immediately.  Unexpected deaths would include the death of a ‘younger’ individual or someone who has not been diagnosed with any terminal condition.  Also included are deaths that are the result of accidents, foul play, or suicide.  The EMTs will come and try to resuscitate the individual.  If they are unable to do so, the police or other law enforcement personnel will come to the house to investigate the death.

If your loved one was under a doctor’s care, contact the doctor.  You will also need to arrange for the care of any minor children or pets belonging to the deceased.  Family and close friends will also need to be contacted.  Do not feel that you have to take this task on yourself, but ask others to help you, or even to take over the task completely.  Finally, if the deceased was still employed you need to contact the employer.

What to do when the Death is Expected

If the person who passed away was suffering from a terminal illness, it is not an emergency situation and you do not have to call 911.  You actually do not have to contact anyone immediately.  If you want, take some time to sit with your loved one after he or she has passed away.  Legally, there is no reason your loved one’s body needs to be moved immediately.  It is completely acceptable to keep the body at home for several hours, or even overnight.  However, if you decide to do this, you will want to close your loved one’s eyelids.  You should also turn the deceased onto his or her back.  Doing this now is helpful as later it can become much more difficult to change his or her position.

Additionally, there may be some cultural or religious customs that were important to your loved one and to yourself and the family, that need to be performed at this time.  This could possibly include rituals around preparing the body, honoring the passing of your loved one, and even coping with your grief.  In this case, you may want to contact a cultural or spiritual leader to help you perform the necessary customs or rituals.

When you are ready to make the call, call the hospice care doctor looking after your loved one’s care, or the designated doctor or nurse, to come to the house and pronounce the death.  After pronouncing the death, the doctor will fill out the necessary form and verify that an autopsy is not required.  At this point, you can call the funeral home.  Your loved one may have already selected a funeral home.  However, if a funeral home has not been selected, you may want to do some research into funeral homes in the area in order to determine which is best suited to fulfill the needs of the family.  You will arrange for transport of your loved one with the funeral home, where someone is available 24-hours a day.

Again, as when the death is unexpected, you will need to arrange for the care of any minor children, other dependents, or pets belonging to the deceased.  Family and close friends will need to be contacted.  Do not attempt to take everything on yourself.  Ask others for help.  Finally, if the deceased was still employed, you need to contact the employer.

In Conclusion

Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, but doing some pre-planning can ease the stress of the situation.  Remember that the key difference between an unexpected home death and an expected home death is that the first is considered an emergency and you must call 911, while the second is not considered an emergency and you do not have to call 911.