There are several important steps that must be taken when someone dies, from taking care of the person's body, to carrying out their wishes regarding organ and tissue donation, making funeral and burial or cremation arrangements, getting a death certificate, managing the estate and overseeing the finances.
The good news is that if the person has pre-arranged these funeral details, all the family needs to do is place a call and the funeral establishment will take over from there.
Here is how the process may unfold, depending on whether someone has passed away at home, in the hospital (including if they were in an accident and were then brought to the hospital) or in a nursing care centre.
When someone dies at home
When someone dies at home, there are two possible situations – expected death and unexpected death. If it is an expected death, in the case where the individual was terminally ill and their loved ones were caring for them through the palliative process, the family may use the EDITH (Expected Death in the Home) protocol.
The EDITH protocol allows a nurse to pronounce the death without the need to wait for a doctor, meaning that the funeral services provider could be at the home as quickly as within the hour.
In some cases, the family may want more time for closure, or to allow relatives from out of town to arrive and visit with the deceased person. This is especially important when the family is using a funeral transfer service and there will not be any visitation services.
If a death in the home was unexpected, it likely that someone has called 911. EMS, fire and/or police personnel are on the scene, and it would be the police officer that would notify the funeral services provider.
If the death occurred under unusual circumstances, e.g., the person is very young, the coroner will be called to investigate. In these cases, the deceased person might be brought to the hospital for an autopsy, where the procedure would then be the same as with deaths that occur in the hospital.
When someone dies in the hospital
First the doctor must provide and sign a medical death certificate. This can take time, but as soon as it’s done the funeral services provider can come on site to retrieve the deceased person from the hospital morgue. At that point the family can meet with the funeral establishment to go over the required documentation and set things in motion. Of course, preplanning means there are fewer decisions to make and fewer details for the family to worry about at this difficult time.
When someone dies in a nursing care centre or nursing home
It is usually a quick process for the doctor to sign the death certificate, and then either the family or the nursing home staff will notify the funeral establishment. Transporting the deceased person from the nursing care centre, where there may be other residents or family members in the hallways, requires special sensitivity.
Regardless of where the death occurred, once the body of the deceased person has been taken care of by the funeral establishment, the family can start the process of fulfilling the legal requirements and other details surrounding this life event.
Funeral preplanning makes the end-of-life process so much smoother – there is just one phone call and no decisions to make. Sadly, most families don’t have this in place and are left wondering who to call and what to do.
At Peaceful Transition we always tell our clients to take care of themselves that first day, and to come and see us the next day. We have a clear-cut process that ensures all the details are taken care of, because we believe that the family’s only focus should be celebrating the person’s life.