What To Do When Someone Dies At Home

Our top tip? Take things slow. Really slow.
What To Do When Someone Dies At Home

While some people choose to die at home (you can read more about that in this guide), sometimes a loved one will unexpectedly die at home. This can be a confronting experience for more reasons than one, but it’s important to remember that there’s no need to freak out – unexpected at-home deaths actually occur more frequently than you probably realise.

Whether you feel prepared for the at-home death of a loved one, or you have no clue where to start once they’ve passed, we’ve compiled a checklist of tasks to complete when your loved one has died. We know that our minds can feel a little frazzled when grieving (especially when the grief comes as a total shock), so hopefully this list will make things a little easier.

1. Take things slow. There’s no need to rush

Saying goodbye is hard, but saying goodbye when you didn’t think you’d have to so soon is even harder. It’s important to take things slowly when your loved one unexpectedly dies at home. Give yourself the time and space to contact other loved ones and invite them over to say their goodbyes too, to ensure everyone who needs to has viewed the body. This is particularly important if the intention is to undergo direct cremation, as once the body has been collected by the cremation service you may be charged additional fees for a Funeral Viewing.

It may be handy to know that the funeral director doesn’t need to be called immediately upon death, so feel free to take your time with your loved one and only pick up the phone once you’re ready for the body to be taken into their care.

2. Reposition the body and their bed

Did you know that a deceased body can become rigid within a few hours post-death? This is called ‘rigor mortis’, when muscles start to stiffen. As a result, you might want to straighten the deceased in their bed, replace their dentures (if they wear any), and reposition their body so they appear as comfortable as possible.

If they have an electric blanket or heater in their room (that’s turned on), you can turn them off, and you can also adjust their pillows, blanket and clothing so they appear respectable and comfortable when other loved ones come to visit. Doing these things can also make the experience of saying goodbye a little less confronting. Sometimes, the deceased might have some perspiration or bodily fluids that need cleaning, too.

3. Call their GP

It’s important to note that there is no legal requirement for you to call the deceased’s GP (or to call anyone, for that matter!) immediately after they have passed away. However, it is important to call them (or a nurse) once you’re ready for their death to be certified. The doctor will then need to attend in order to certify their death.

If their doctor isn’t available, you can also call an ambulance and have a paramedic or authorised nurse complete a ‘Verification of Death’ form which confirms that the person has died. The individual’s doctor can then complete a medical certificate later on.

If the person has died during the night, you can wait until the morning to call the doctor. There’s no rush at all, so take your time.

Unsure if your loved one has passed away? Call 000. Likewise, if your loved one doesn’t have a regular GP you can call on to certify their death, you can also call 000.

4. Call the funeral director

As we’ve already mentioned a few times in this guide, there’s no rush at all to start making plans for your loved one’s final disposition. Take things slowly, and then, once everyone has said their goodbyes and you’re feeling ready (or, well, as ready as possible), contact the funeral director to let them know your loved one has passed. They’ll guide you through the process of planning a funeral or arranging a direct cremation.

Before making funeral arrangements, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Did the deceased have any wishes in relation to their funeral?
  • Had they made any funeral plans prior to their passing (ie. Had they already prepaid for their funeral)?
  • Is there enough money in their bank account to pay for their funeral? Have you contacted their bank about accessing their account(s)?
  • Did they have any health insurance, life insurance, funeral insurance or superannuation policies you might be able to access?

Wrap up

We know that a loved one dying at home can feel confronting, confusing, and sometimes even stressful (especially if you have no idea what to do). However, it’s important to remember that there’s no legal requirement (or any other requirement for that matter) to take action immediately – you can move slowly, taking your time to say goodbye to your loved one for the last time, only calling a doctor and funeral director when the time feels right.

If you find yourself in need of arranging a funeral or direct cremation for a loved one, the team at Willed can assist. Please call us on 1300 945 533.

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