What to Do When Someone Dies at Home
Losing a loved one is stressful in any setting and if you’re unsure what to do when someone passes away at home, it can make the situation a lot more stressful. If you’re in charge of a taking care of a loved one or just want to be prepared for the situation, it’s a good idea to understand the steps you’ll need to take when someone dies at home.
If someone passes away at home while in hospice, it’s okay to take some time together as a family before calling the hospice. When you’re ready, you should get in touch with your hospice care provider. You should have access to an on-call nurse’s number; if you do not, call your hospice care provider and they’ll send out a nurse. The nurse will arrive and will pronounce the patient. The hospice company will take care of filing paperwork, removal of the body and different medical supplies.
If someone dies at home unexpectedly, or someone dies at home who was not in hospice care, you should call 911 immediately. It is important that you do not touch the scene, as unexpected deaths are investigated by the police and you do not want to contaminate any evidence. First responders will arrive at the scene and will attempt to resuscitate the deceased, unless you have a do-not-resuscitate order, or DNR order to give to them. If you do not have a DNR order, efforts will be made to resuscitate them and they will be taken to the hospital.
The police will investigate the death, which can include taking evidence, photos, and investigating the area. If the deceased was taking any kind of medication, it’s a good idea to have the names of the medications ready. You should also try to find the name of their doctor in case the police request this information.
Once everything has settled down, take the time to start figuring out funeral plans, if they haven’t already been clearly laid out. You’ll need to choose a funeral home or cremation company within a few days, so that someone can pick up the body. If you don’t have a funeral home or crematorium selected at the time of death or when the body is released, the body will be taken to the morgue and can later be picked up by the funeral home. You’ll also want to get in touch with other family members and those close to the family to let them know what happened.
It's also a good idea to start thinking about funding and expenses. Traditional funerals cost, on average, around $9,000. Due to the time-sensitive nature of funerals, most funeral homes require you to provide payment up front as well. If you haven't set up a funeral fundraiser, you should look into it. Additionally, you should check to see if the decedent had a will or last testament of any kind. While this won't help you in the immediate future (most funds left in a will are subject to probate, which can take many, many months to complete), but it'll help you get an idea of how much money you may have reimbursed down the line. If your loved one passed away due to COVID-19, be sure to check into FEMA's reimbursement program, which you can learn about here.
You’ll want to notify the rest of your family and friends at this point and let them know what happened. It's also a great idea to notify employers, coworkers, club members or any other organizations your loved one was a part of. A quick way to do this is to quickly set up an online memorial website so that you can include all of the relevant information that goes along with someone passing away. They're able to share condolences, interact with others in your loved one's community and connect with each other.
For a more comprehensive overview of what to do when someone dies, check out our checklist for What to Do When Someone Dies.