Do you know what to do when someone dies at home? Most people don’t. And because the first moments of dealing with death – even if the deceased was quite old or terminally ill – is a traumatic experience for those in the home, doing the right things can seem challenging. Here are some general guidelines to help you know what to do when someone dies at home:
Making the Discovery
If the deceased had been under home hospice care or observation with the end of life expected, it may be that the exact moment of death is observed. Oftentimes, however, the death of the loved one is only realized after the fact. In any event, discovering that someone you care about has passed away is unsettling. If the deceased had been very ill for a long time, or had been suffering with great pain, relief may be part of what you are feeling. And that’s okay. In fact, you may experience quite a jumble of feelings and emotions as you try to mentally process what has just occurred. This, too, is normal.
Taking the Time You Need
Because you may need some time – perhaps even a few hours – to process what has happened and what you are feeling, it might often be okay to wait before taking further action regarding the body. However, please be aware that the more time that passes, the more this could impact the ability of responding professionals to determine the manner of death and carry out their duties. If the death was unexpected or appeared to have been self-inflicted, accidental, or even by foul play, time is of the essence. Otherwise, however, if natural causes are likely or the end of life had been expected, immediate response by officials may not be necessary. If in doubt, make the proper calls as soon as possible.
Placing the Necessary Phone Calls
If a qualified medical professional was in the home and able to make an official declaration of the death, it might be appropriate to call the funeral home first. Your funeral director can assist with next steps for you to take, and can arrange for transportation of the body and subsequent arrangements. In all other cases, however, your first call should be to 911 or your local police agency. They can dispatch appropriate response personnel. If a qualified medical professional was NOT on hand to declare the death and state the passing was due to natural causes, it is likely the Coroner will be called to the scene. The Coroner will make the determination if additional medical investigation is necessary that would require transporting the body to a pathology lab, hospital or morgue. An unexplained, accidental or otherwise suspicious death may be cause for an autopsy. In any event, making the call to 911 will result in getting the proper officials involved to take the appropriate steps.
So, in reality, what to do when someone dies at home isn’t all that complicated, although it can be traumatic. Take some deep breaths, collect your thoughts, and reach out to officials via 911 or your funeral home. If you contact your funeral home first when you should have contacted 911, this will be explained to you, and you can then take the necessary right steps.
If you anticipate a loved one could pass away soon in your home due to a terminal illness or declining general health, contact us at Stillinger Family Funeral Home beforehand at 317.462.5536. We can let you know in advance the right steps to take when the moment comes.